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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Lead singer Michael Angelakos performs with Passion Pit Thursday night at the Riverside Theater.
Lead singer Michael Angelakos performs with Passion Pit Thursday night at the Riverside Theater. (Photo: Erik Ljung)

Passion Pit stages an amped-up return to The Riverside

No stranger to Milwaukee audiences, Passion Pit returned to the Brew City on Thursday night for an energetic performance at the Riverside Theater.

In a surprising move, Passion Pit kicked off the show by playing the single "Take a Walk" off of its sophomore album, "Gossamer." Both the floor level and balcony stood on their feet for the opening number and never sat down again for the remainder of the set.

Immediately, the unmistakable smell of marijuana was present in the air and lingered until the end of the night. Any smoke from the crowd was masked visually by the large amount of fog employed on stage by the band. Passion Pit kept the energy going by following their opening song up with "The Reeling," an up-tempo number from its debut disc, "Manners."

With only two albums to its name, Passion Pit was able to condense the two into essentially a "greatest hits so far" mix. Only a few of the deeper cuts from both albums didn't make Thursday's setlist.

In addition to the music being fast and upbeat, the band employed a variety of lighting tricks to keep their show visually striking. This included a unique lighting design that made a graffiti-like collage of color to appear on the floor of the Riverside stage. Most commonly the band used blue searchlights and sometimes overactive strobes to enhance the mood of the music.

After the band played gigs in 2010 at the Riverside Theater, Summerfest and the pre-"BMO Harris" Bradley Center (opening for Muse), it was easy to see how lead singer Michael Angelakos had lost track of the band's visits to Milwaukee. "This is our third, fourth or fifth time here. It's crazy."

For the most part, Angelakos' interactions with the audience were a bit generic, such as asking how everyone was doing and who in attendance had never seen the band before. Still, it was very encouraging to see Angelakos, who suffers from a bipolar disorder, appear so comfortable and to be having fun on stage Thursday night.

The initial closing song for Passion Pit's set was its debut single "Sleepyhead." After playing the song that first gained them attention, all five members of Passion Pit left the stage. However, even though they waved goodbye, it was obvious that the show certainly wasn't over since they hadn't played "Little Secrets," one of their biggest hits.

After a solid minute of cheers and applause from the crowd, the band returned to the stage. Before launching into the bonus numbers, Angelakos pointed out that guitarist/keyboardist Ian Hultquist had celebrated his 27th birthday on Halloween and that it would be nice if the fans in attendance would wish him a belated happy birthday.

After the Riverside audience obliged, the band played its final two numbers of the evening, "Moth's Wings," and sure enough, "Little Secrets." "Little Secrets" ended up being the perfect closer, with fans dancing and raising their hands to the lines "Higher and higher and higher" from the chorus of the song.

Appropriately, the band went out on this infectious high note with some fans still singing the catchy hook as they worked their way out of the venue. The Riverside Theater made the right call making the show general admission, since it would have been silly to have reserved seats considering no one sat for Passion Pit's set.

Angelakos might not know how many times the band's been to Milwaukee, but once again they delivered a fantastic show that their fans won't soon forget.

There were two opening acts for the evening. The first band was the OK GO-esque Canadian band Hollerado. Unfortunately for them, they did not know their audience and thought they were paying a compliment when they said that Milwaukee was like Chicago's little brother. That immediately drew  a negative response from the audience and left them scrambling to justify what they meant (something along the lines of little brothers being cool).

The standout track was "Americanarama" from the album "Record in a Bag," but the misguided comment lingered over the band's set.

The second act was Youngblood Hawke. Despite being fairly new, Youngblood Hawke was very confident and had a sound similar to Passion Pit's that complemented the headliner.

Youngblood Hawke has received some attention for its single "We Come Running," and that song certainly got the biggest reaction from the Riverside audience. While the band's set could have used a little less bass in the mix, it definitely won over the crowd with songs from its recent EP as well as tunes that will likely be on its eventual full-length release.

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