It’s rare to come across a performing artist that has the ability to wow a crowd not just with their music, but also with an elaborate visual effects show. Brooklyn-based rocktronica duo Ratatat base their entire live act around accomplishing both, as was on display Sunday, September 20th at the Ventura Theater.
14-year veterans of the industry, Evan Mast and Mike Stroud have long excelled at bringing their performance to life with one of the most intricate and diverse light shows in the music world. That’s not to say that their ability as instrumentalists pales at all in the face of their visuals; both musicians are more than capable of playing each and every instrument at their disposal.
After opening act Nick Koenig, aka Hot Sugar, warmed up the crowd with a compound set of live guitar with backing electronics, Ratatat kicked off their performance with “Pricks of Brightness,” the seventh track off their newest and fifth studio album, Magnifique, released this past July.
Over the course of their two-hour set, Mast and Stroud traded off taking the spotlight with various instruments that included guitar, bass, keyboard, autoharp, melodica, slide guitar, and bongos. Stroud delighted in giving us his best Eddie Van Halen impersonation during solos and backed it up with virtuosic guitar skills.
In addition to the opening song, the duo treated us to several new tracks off Magnifique, including “Grape Juice City,” “Cream on Chrome,” “Abrasive,” and the title track. Some classics found their way into the set as well: “Loud Pipes,” “Wildcat,” and “Mirando” to name a few.
As for the dazzling visual effects, three separate screens onstage showed a hodgepodge of three-dimensional imagery that included Roman busts, birds, a baby with ten arms, exploding fruit, geometric shapes, a dancing chain link, and several felines. When these screens weren’t confounding the audience, four separate projectors traced layers of lasers through the theater’s interior — captivating enough to momentarily distract from Mast and Stroud’s antics onstage.
With the complexity of their performances, Ratatat have certainly established themselves as one of the most mesmerizing live acts around. And it was fitting for their show to take place at an antiquated yet elegant venue such as the Ventura Theater. Their current tour continues with a few more shows in southern California before heading off to Europe, and the trip is well worth it if you’re willing to commute down to Los Angeles or San Diego.