If you picked up and fell in love with last year’s debut album from The Temper Trap, chances are you’ll cherish the band’s live show. This past Thursday night at SOhO, the Australian-born quartet dished up a set’s worth of material so spot-on and sonically tight it was almost frightening to witness. Prior to their set, S.B.-based DJ A-Rod (aka Andrew Rodriguez) primed the sold-out crowd with an eclectic and entertaining mix of indie- and electro-rock goodness that featured cuts from Miike Snow and The xx. Aside from the welcome pre-party dance-off it provided, A-Rod’s offstage act meant a refreshingly early start time for the headlining act, who began their set just before 10 p.m.
From there, it wasn’t long before things got a little crazy. Girls rushed the stage. Guys pumped their fists. And lead singer Dougy Mandagi dished up the opening “ooh oohs” of “Rest” with a soulful clarity that nearly outshone the recorded version. From those opening bars, it was easy to see how The Temper Trap have come so far in so short a time; the band is about as crisply orchestrated as they come. Throughout the set, drummer Toby Dundas proved himself to be the group’s ace in the hole, dishing out crunching beats on both his live kit and a small collection of electronic pads. In fact, it was the combination of Mandagi’s falsetto (and Mick Jagger-like pucker) and Dundas’s show-stopping percussion work that elevated the set beyond a simple rehashing of the band’s recorded works.
Among the night’s highlights was the symphonic “Down River,” which found Mandagi juggling the roles of twangy folkster and bombastic rocker against a wall of shakers and tambourines. Also of note was the sample- and effects-driven “Love Lost,” which highlighted the band’s musical prowess—guitarist/keyboardist Lorenzo Sillitto was a sight to behold as he jockeyed between instruments.
Still, it was about midway through the band’s aptly titled “Drum Song” that something struck an uneasy chord. As Mandagi traded his axe for a floor tom and a high-hat and began thrashing, the whole thing started to feel less like a jam sesh and more like a well-rehearsed rendition of rocking out. Call me a romantic, but I left realizing that I like my rock a little faster, a little looser, and a little less immaculate than the Temper Trap’s.