Aqualung. At SOhO, Sunday, February 18.

Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks

Aqualung.jpgTwo things quickly became apparent
during Aqualung’s SOhO performance on Sunday night. The first was
the compositional dexterity of Matt Hayes and his songwriting
partner, Kim Oliver. Hayes and Oliver are composers of the finest
pop, confirmed by their performance of glittering treasures such as
“Strange and Beautiful (I’ll Put a Spell on You)” and “Brighter
Than Sunshine.” The second revelation was in regards to Hayes’s
insatiable reverence for his craft. Despite a 15-year career
dedicated to as many pre-Aqualung bands as to musical redirections,
his presence on stage was as fresh and earnest as if it were his
first time up there.

The power of Aqualung’s music comes from the ease with which it
is presented. The sprightly delivery of “Left Behind” might have
belied the song’s emotional misgivings, but there was no confusing
the aching temperament of “Tongue-Tied.” Its brooding piano and
smoky vocals sculpted an atmosphere as ominous as the lyrics. And
while conviction weighed heavily within the evening’s proceedings,
the boys didn’t take themselves too seriously. Amid their pop gems
were two spontaneous and locally inspired piano odes — one
explaining how Saint Barbara is the patron saint of living by the
sea and the other about a beard and wig store the band stumbled
across while exploring town.

Contrast seemed to be the order of the night. While introducing
Aqualung’s forthcoming album, Memory Man, Hayes showcased
the polarity to the recording’s content. Residing at the darker end
of the emotional spectrum was “Glimmer,” while the up-tempo
“Outside” was a sublime example of infectious pop. With its longing
violin and plaintive piano, “Glimmer” is one of Aqualung’s more
enticingly reflective songs but, as far as pop luminosity goes,
“Brighter Than Sunshine” takes the cake. In introducing the band’s
magnum opus, Hayes humbly spoke about the gratitude he feels for
the success of his music and the journey it has led him on. And
when the song ingeniously morphed into Simon and Garfunkel’s “The
Only Living Boy in New York,” it became clear that Aqualung’s
journey is destined to continue for quite some time.


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