A thousand-odd punters lined up outside the Savoy Theatre on a chilly Friday evening in Cork for much-hyped Boston electronic act Passion Pit. There was a sizeable crowd as early as 6 o’clock – though the show wasn’t due to begin until 10 – and their enthusiasm was only slightly dampened by the unscheduled late start. This was unavoidable as the band’s ferry had been delayed arriving to Rosslare and they only arrived at the venue at 10.30pm, the time the gig was originally scheduled to kick off. All in all, it was 11.30 before all of the ticketholders (tickets were distributed for free by way of an online raffle through Heineken Green Spheres) had been allowed into the venue.
First impressions can be everything, and Passion Pit didn’t exactly impose themselves early on. The non-descript synth rumble of the first couple of numbers failed to ignite much enthusiasm on the floor, and a lot of those hanging around the bar area seemed unaware that the band had actually taken to the stage. Luckily, we all know that first impressions are usually bunk, and the roof all but lifted itself from the venue when the five-piece whipped out their first big gun of the night, -The Reeling,’ with its anthemic call-and-response chorus feeding an almighty buzz that couldn’t possibly have been predicted five minutes earlier. Until signature tune -Sleepyhead’ finished proceedings on a euphoric high, the two biggest pops of the night had come for singles -To Kingdom Come’ and -Little Secrets,’ both of which boast similarly festival-ready gang choruses.
Passion Pit’s music bears notable similarities with Oklahomans the Flaming Lips (influences as disparate as the Beach Boys and Daft Punk are also prominent), and this was perhaps the reasoning behind the dozen-or-so bright green inflatable balloons that were thrown around the crowd towards the end – it wasn’t quite Wayne Coyne crowd-surfing inside a giant ball, but it did nicely capture the mood of the audience and the positive vibes that were feeding all night between band and crowd, and among the audience itself. Singer Michael Angelakos has been criticised in the past for hiding behind his keyboard on the stage, but he’s turned into a genuinely engaging frontman who controlled the stage with an authority that seemed to suggest he had built it himself. He and his band were really up for it, and their enthusiasm definitely seeped through to the crowd, and vice versa.
Given that Passion Pit have only got one full-length record to date, it was inevitable the mood would sag a little when they wheeled out the less impressive middle order tracks. -Swimming In The Flood’ and -Folds In Your Hands’ dropped like dead weights in the middle of the set and sucked out a little of the momentum that had been generated, but they were quickly able to recognise the fall-off immediately and get the audience back screaming and fist-pumping with some more muscular numbers. More impressive is the fact the band have four, maybe five, tracks in their short catalogue that could legitimately bring down the house at any given moment – they could have brought the same songs out for the encore and had exactly the same response second time around.
As it happened, for the encore they rolled out a cover of Limerick band the Cranberries’ -Dreams.’ This was not entirely unexpected – they’ve been covering it for much of the current tour, prompting one State writer to brand it ‘the sound of boiling cat.’ Friday evening’s performance was a lot more polished – Angelakos’ warbly falsetto is ideally suited for a song originally performed by a woman. He has the tendency, on occasion, to sound like a bawling baby, but his voice hardly faltered the entire night, and didn’t grate nearly as much as it occasionally does on record. The performance was topped off with a rousing rendition of -Sleepyhead,’ which was more or less 100% faithful to the studio version (they have been known to play around with the melodies more than they did on this occasion) but still a fantastic way to top off the night.
Interestingly, Angelakos’ association with female Irish singers goes further than mere appreciation of Dolores O’Riordan – -Sleepyhead’ contains a mangled sample of Mary O’Hara’s 1950s ballad -Ã“rÃ³ Mo BhÃ¡idÃn,’ completing an unlikely one-two encore for the Irish crowd.
Photos by Richard Gilligan.