Live Review: Owl Eyes + Collarbones + Mammals – The Standard (11.05.13)

Owl Eyes’s debut record Nightswim has a very laid-back atmosphere, so I was under the impression that her live show would be just as smooth. Between the performances of her support acts, the technical mishaps, and the surprising amount of energy she possessed, the night was somewhat scattered — but ultimately, enjoyable.

Mammals were first on stage, with the usual music I’ve come to expect from all-male synth-rock groups. While their music wasn’t bad, I found them to be lacking a range in sound, and so they weren’t as engaging as they could’ve been. Overall, their set was relatively unobtrusive, and even though they did have a few small groups of people cheering, it was clear that their music wasn’t lively enough for the crowd.

Collarbones introduced themselves with the following statement: ‘We’re going to play thirty minutes of pop songs and then have a bit of a dance.’ This is exactly what they did. They appeared more confident than their predecessors, but were apparently stuck in the same sonic trap, with their songs sounding too similar to one another. However, they did succeed in getting a large portion of the audience dancing along with them at the end, which is always an accomplishment.

When it was time for Owl Eyes to come on stage, I was bracing myself to be let down: after all, I hadn’t been hooked by either of her supports. But from the moment she twirled onstage, Owl Eyes had me. She was constantly in motion, and her vocals were spot on — far stronger and sweeter when performed live, yet somehow maintaining the breathy intimacy of her record. Highlights included the old favourites “Crystalised” and “Raiders”, new treats like “Ivory” and “Diamonds In Her Eyes”, and the album bonus track “Love Run Dry”, which was clearly the audience’s favourite of the night.

Ironically, it was due to the technical difficulties that interrupted and delayed the show by twenty minutes that revealed this. While the sound people tried to fix the problem, Owl Eyes’s devoted crowd spontaneously serenaded her with the “Love Run Dry” chorus; complete with backing vocals and an endearing attempt at the very long and rather high notes. It was as amusing as it was touching, and it maintained the energy while her synths were fixed, which benefited everybody.

Even though the encore eventually had to be cut short by one song in order to finish up on time, the atmosphere after the show was overwhelmingly positive. Owl Eyes has a natural charm about her; a warmth and honesty that makes her live show uniquely personal and utterly worthwhile.


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