On a chilly Tuesday in November, Rufus Du Sol brought the warmth of Sydney and feels-a-plenty of their music to First Avenue’s mainroom in Minneapolis. They also brought a fantastic billing of support to open for them. (Photo gallery for those who prefer)
I got tied up at will call when I arrived, and I caught the last half of Icarus’ set from the lobby, so I wound up with no photos, but it sounded great even all the way in back around the corner. Sorry about that, fellas.
Thankfully, I gained entry well in time for Cubicolor’s somber, yet emotive set. The trio, touring as a duo sounded live much as they do recorded, which is to say lush, sharp, and entrancing. Their music is like the phase of a bad episode or depression where you’re on the upswing and you feel good about feeling bad. There’s a threshold where the sadness feels empowering, and it’s at that point where their music feels peak relevance. It wasn’t so much of a downer as to bum everybody out leading into Rufus. It was a fitting emotional primer.
As a regular of electronic shows, I’ve grown accustomed to a fairly rapid, if not seamless cutover when transitioning from one act to the next. But Rufus’ new stage production demanded a seam. It felt a like a little much, as if they were trying to shove a size 12 foot into the size seven shoe that is First Avenue’s stage. The three members’ gear sat on its own platform, each staggered at different heights. James’ drums were on the lowest level, which still stood 2’ off the stage for some reason, rather than on it. Tyrone’s synths were the highest and put him at an awkward angle for anybody remotely close to the stage.
Rufus took the stage with a loud-for-Minneapolis applause and got right to work with ‘Eyes’ off of Solace and ‘Like an Animal’ from their previous album, Bloom. One thing that I noticed in these two songs was that the new songs received a little better attention than their older songs. It wasn’t just the first two songs, either, and this is also true for their appearance at Electric Forest last June. It seems like something changed with Tyrone’s voice, though I’m not sure if he’s working on a different singing style as a choice or if it’s due to the strain of the style in their old music. Not bad for new fans, but not great for older ones.
I was thrown off a bit when they played the opening bars of their third track, which wasn’t there’s at all. Of all the groups that they’d cover, I didn’t expect it to be Portishead. Their rendition of ‘Glory Box’ was true to the original as it could be, but it also held a definitely Rufus flavor to it. I was just as surprised later in the show when they covered Kaskade x Deadmau5’s ‘I Remember.’ Nothing brings back feels like those luscious chords. Solid choice, gentlemen.
In a city that loves music as much as Minneapolis/St. Paul does, and with several viable radio outlets, it’s baffling that they are not wildly popular around these parts. They capture a singer/songwriter vibe, their lyrics run the gamut of relationships, the production is non-threatening electronic, and they are extremely accessible.
This was Rufus Du Sol’s second visit to Minneapolis and their third to the area, if you count their appearance at the nearby Summer Set Music Festival. At the latter, their set coincided with Marshmello which attracted the lion’s share of Summer Set’s attendees, so those of us who have good taste in music preferred Rufus were treated to a surprisingly intimate festival performance. Their show at First Avenue sold out the day before, and may have yielded a larger crowd than at either of the previous stops.
The three guys on stage at First Avenue, Tyrone, John, and James were the same ones I saw for the first time at Coachella 2015, but it was easy to see that they’d changed since then. Their latest effort, Solace, released last month is evidence of that. They took their time in crafting the record, seeking inspiration in the desert, letting the journey fully play out before assembling the music into a final product.
You could see that transferred to their live set-up as well, as ambitiously sized as it was. Make sure to hit up one of their remaining dates if you’re out there along the way. Especially if the venue is a little bigger.
I work, live and play in Minneapolis.
I try to tell the story of the people that create music and experiences through pictures as well as through words.