Review: Odesza at the Aspen Art Museum’s The Now
Odesza played one of the most talked-about concerts at Red Rocks last year, and some of the buzziest sets at the big summer festivals from Coachella to Bumbershoot, as the Seattle-based electronic duo built out its chill live performances into epic productions featuring live vocalists and drum lines.
But Odesza can still go small and stay intimate, as the duo proved in a one-hour set, playing to a subdued but engaged crowd of 100 or so at the Aspen Art Museum on Thursday night for the museum’s The Now winter benefit.
The museum’s rooftop sculpture garden was transformed into a little dance club for the performance, with an elaborate lighting setup strung along the lattice-work of the ceiling, bright winter moonlight pouring in through the glass rooftop and a fog machine billowing away. The museum production got a surprisingly full sound out of its portable speakers, with occasionally gut-rattling bass, and included a story-high LED screen behind the band projecting quick-cut animation, landscapes and abstract imagery.
Odesza brought along a two-man horn section, with Harrison Mills hopping between playing live drums on a stand-up set and working his DJ console, while Clayton Knight worked a separate console of his own, both mixing tracks live.
The set list boasted new and old, with lightly remixed songs from the duo’s 2014 breakout “In Return” and last autumn’s resplendent “A Moment Apart,” with standout versions of “Say My Name” and the new tracks “Higher Ground” and “Falls.” The crowd gathered in close around the duo, dancing within arm’s-reach of Mills and Knight, adding to the concert’s intimate house party vibe.
Crowds at electronic shows — especially performances at social events like this one — too often treat the performance like background mood music. In the hands of less capable artists, this small audience could have easily drifted away toward the open bar or the passed desserts or the New Year’s week schmoozing, but Odesza didn’t let them. This band — with its gorgeous cinematic mix of synths and glitched-up recorded vocals, dance beats and brass — draws you in and demands you pay attention. Unlike a lot of DJs, they don’t need to yell into a microphone and tell you to jump or bang your head or wave your hands or whatever — they let the music tell you what to do. And unlike way too many electronic artists, they don’t just play a pre-recorded mix and jump around stage to compensate for the lack of effort.
The concert followed the museum’s big winter fundraising dinner and an auction that included items like a custom-made Ken Solomon artwork, tickets to the Emmys and dinner with racecar driver Jimmie Johnson at his Aspen home (and bidders including bold-faced names like Tom Ford chairman Domenico De Sole and Eleanor De Sole). Much of the decidedly older dinner crowd filtered out toward the beginning of Odesza’s performance, leaving the grandkids and the younger set to its dance party on the rooftop.