Review: Freelance Whales still impress playing to smaller crowd at the Observatory
It was one of those shows at Santa Ana’s Observatory that for most die-hard fans of New York’s Freelance Whales – on tour behind its just-released sophomore album, Diluvia – was likely redundant. That distinct impression was given off by the venue’s half-emptiness Wednesday night, undoubtedly because the group had played Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre the previous evening.
That said, the six-piece touring edition of the group attacked this gig from a decidedly half-full perspective, maintaining high spirits and unbridled energy throughout a lengthy set that featured all but one song from its new 11-track disc, plus seven choice cuts from 2009 debut Weathervanes.
Such a thorough revue of the outfit’s catalog thus far did well to reveal just how incredibly dynamic this group is. The use of glockenspiel, harmonium and banjo – all fairly rare in the world of electronic indie rock – was consistently prominent throughout dreamier, earlier tracks like “Ghosting,” “Generator ^ First Floor” and “Broken Horse. Those instruments, plus subtle trumpet lines and soaring synth, likewise played significant roles in new cuts, incuding “Spitting Image,” “Locked Out” and the encore-closing “DNA Bank.”
Renditions of the recent material also saw the group switch up roles more frequently; all but Jacob Hyman handled at least three different instruments. The nuances of technique gave those songs added gusto, with several sounding more Arcade Fire-like than inspired by Ben Gibbard, a comparison often drawn from frontman Judah Dadone’s airy vocals.