Chairlift / Nite Jewel Electric Owl, Vancouver BC April 6

Chairlift / Nite Jewel Electric Owl, Vancouver BC April 6
Californian retro-electro outfit Nite Jewel took the stage with confidence, as principal songwriter Ramona Gonzalez said they were going to assume that everyone was there to see them. Yet their Vancouver performance lent itself more toward quiet reflection than braggadocio.

Gonzalez mostly sang with her eyes closed or half-open, her energy focused rather insularly like Elaine from Seinfeld if she danced in the darkest corner of a nightclub after taking some downers. Holding a mic in one hand, Gonzalez has a decent voice, confidently playing signature melodies on a keyboard with the other. But the overall sound of the touring quartet was rather monotonous, the tunes repetitive and sluggish. After a while, it all started to run together.

Clearly in another league, New York-based synth-pop group Chairlift are primarily the work of singer Caroline Polachek and one-man rhythm section Patrick Wimberly, but were seen as a five-piece band this evening. Their tie-dyed-hat-clad guitarist had a fairly impressive rig with which to alter his sound, their touring drummer was enthusiastic, and their synth patches changed for every track, culminating in an evolving, vibrant sound.

As Wimberly supported on bass, Polachek was free to play with shakers and castanets, while focusing her energy into her ecstatic stage presence and powerful voice, which could give Stevie Nicks a run for her money. The singer made purposeful shapes and motions, which betrayed her ballet training, her tall and lean frame helping to exaggerate her skill. She was very present in the moment, taking no time to respond to a girl shouting, "You're so hot!" with "Shut up! So are you!"

While they had an arguably similar style as Nite Jewel, Chairlift were far more developed and well-rounded. There were clear dynamics made evident through their tight playing, and a much thicker sound overall, showing more influences like '80s psychedelia and even industrial. The whole band were more engaged, more fluid, more relaxed and seemingly happier, their sound reflecting their subtle grace.