Hundred Waters S.A.T., Montreal QC, February 27
Published Feb 28, 2015Florida four-piece Hundred Waters are a bit of an odd group, to which their recent touring partners — they've performed in Montreal these past two years with diverse acts such as Majical Cloudz, Mas Ysa and Braids, and they have an upcoming support slot with Interpol in July — can attest. By straddling the art-rock, pop and electronic scenes, they've managed to amass an eclectic group of fans in Montreal.
The stage was clouded in smoke and blue lights before the band came onstage at la Société des Arts Technologiques to a notably tepid welcome before launching straight into "Out Alee" and "Innocent" from their critically acclaimed sophomore album, The Moon Rang Like A Bell. Both performances demonstrated the essence of their sound adequately, but failed to seriously entice the audience. Mid-way through a new song, however, which alternated between a completely acoustic arrangement to an all-out psychedelic finale, they finally got people swaying and received an appropriate applause.
They performed "Cavity" basked in white light to dramatic effect, which highlighted both the strength and weakness of the performance as a whole: though the lights created visual drama, the artifice of it seemed to keep the audience at bay instead of reeling them in. Take the live rendition of "Chambers (Passing Train)" for instance: Paul Giese's guitar-solo was ripe with The Crow parallels (all that was missing was a rooftop from which to perform) before transitioning into an instrumental mid-section in which lead singer Nicole Miglis crouched on stage while smoke billowed around them, before returning to the piano to play scales repeatedly. It was all too rehearsed and obviously performative to truly evoke anything or captivate the crowd. The following acoustic rendition of "Show Me Love" fared better, and was much more appreciated by the crowd, with Miglis performing solo on the piano in a scaled back fashion.
Miglis recalled performing in Montreal with Braids in 2013, informing the crowd that the upcoming track — The Moon Rang Like a Bell highlight "Murmurs" — was actually written in the green room of this same venue, noting how far they've come along since then.
The four-piece became far more engaging in the back half of the show, starting with the Huxley remix of "Down From the Rafters" from their recently released remix LP. The final track of the set was also a hit, as they performed a tropical-tinged version of "[Animal]" complete with steel drums and a cacophonous climax.
In the encore, Miglis shed her furry overcoat for the final track "Xtalk" and simultaneously shed her stage persona: suddenly, we were offered a glimpse of a more present and more real version of the lead singer, as she bounced across the stage and offered a more straightforward and affecting vocal performance to provide a highlight of the evening.
This final performance redeemed the set, but it also threw the rest of the set in contrast against it. Had less attention been given to the lights, the musicians' gamesmanship and overall "performance," and instead focused on the quality of their source material, the whole set could have been elevated to amazing instead of adequate.