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Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

Passion Pit @ The Riverside Theater

Nov. 1, 2012

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Erik Ljung
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"I remember playing this theater, but I don't remember playing to this audience," Passion Pit singer Michael Angelakos remarked after the band’s rendition of "The Reeling" early on Thursday night at the Riverside Theater. He stood there smiling, overwhelmed by the ecstatic response to the same glossy synth-pop jam the band had played here two years ago. This performance mostly mirrored that delightful, over-saturated set’s never-ending hook-after-hook-after-hook cycle. Sure, the crowd's palpable energy certainly amped things up, but something else also seemed different this time around. There was a noticeable change in Angelakos himself, who appeared to be the opposite of his previously reserved, awkward self. Coming off as more engaging and enthusiastic, the high-pitched vocalist strutted across the stage all night, brimming with confidence. 

Calling Angelakos transformed merely onstage would be a wild understatement. In interviews he has notably opened up about suffering with bipolar disorder, and Passion Pit’s latest album, the semi-autobiographical Gossamer, confronts the struggles he’s had fighting the disease and dealing with the people surrounding him. The confession was a weighty one. Not only did it reveal his struggle to the world, but its element of mental instability also ran the risk of predefining his future narrative.

The fact that Angelakos can make such devastating subject matter sound so bubbly and catchy is a testament to his impeccable songwriting abilities. The man will make a rave out of a funeral. Most of Thursday night oozed with these exuberant downers. Beginning with dour money-struggles on "Take a Walk" (Angelakos' pacing back and forth would have seemed to be an act if he hadn’t kept it up for the entire evening), Passion Pit’s performance detailed the implausibility of love, the toll one’s self-destructive behavior can have on a relationship, and the hopelessness that comes when there might not be an escape from the madness—all juxtaposed with enveloping, up-tempo electro-pop beats and Angelakos’ trademark falsetto.

But yet, the silky-smooth R&B of “Constant Conversations” was the night’s grandest moment. It also happened to be the only hushed one. Other than the few instances when he sat behind a keyboard, this was the only time Angelakos remained motionless onstage. Hanging onto the mic stand, eyes closed, he appeared transfixed in song. “I never want to hurt you baby/ I’m just a mess with a name and a price,” he pleaded. The stripped-down accompaniment helped actualize the searing pain, leading one to wonder how gripping the group’s oeuvre would sound on only a piano. The suffering didn’t last long, however. With the chorus came a barrage of “ohs” that sparked one of the ceaseless sing-alongs, and Angelakos reverted back to waving his arms, gleefully running around the stage.

It was clear that Passion Pit’s debut LP, Manners, still remains the treasure trove, as the band returned to it over and over to brighten the mood. While the band had played many of these earlier hits only a couple of years prior, you couldn’t help but notice that they didn’t seem the same at all.

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