LIVE: Blood Orange At The El Rey (4/14/14)
By Yumi Lifer on April 15, 2014
Aside from an encore or two, Blood Orange’s sold-out El Rey show supporting his latest album, Cupid Deluxe, left nothing more to be desired.
A DJ set from Kindness opened with a mellow prelude to a much-anticipated performance by the NYC-based artist. By the time the curtains lifted to reveal Dev Hynes and his band onstage, the theater was packed with a diverse crowd donning outfits befitting French New Wave stars or In Living Color’s Fly Girls. Indeed, the show was not only well-attended, but the crowd was also notably well-dressed. Hynes’s band was a bevy of beautiful people with exceptionally good hair. Donning a leather cap, red button-down shirt, and a pair of well-worn jeans, Hynes worked the crowd with an easy charisma, his energy and force palpable despite his quiet humility. Crooning behind backup singer or sitting beside his drummer, he seemed equally awed by fellow band mates as we were of him. Hynes delivered the requisite jaw-dropping guitar solos and fluid Michael Jackson-meets-Pina-Bausch dance moves, drawing screaming applause.
The singer's girlfriend Samantha Urbani is featured throughout Cupid Deluxe, and the show didn’t disappoint with their enchanting duets on “No Right Thing,” “On the Line,” “Chosen,” “It Is What It Is” and “Always Let U Down”. It’s difficult to imagine earlier Blood Orange going solo with only an electric guitar and a lowly laptop. His band – including a saxophonist, rapper, keyboardist, bassist, drummer, and backup singer – did justice to the rich melodies, complex rhythms, and varied styles of Deluxe’s songs. He even threw in a few jams from previous album, Coastal Grooves, like “Sutphin Boulevard” and “Forget It”. The band gave a complex quality to the earlier songs, adding interesting layers to otherwise minimalist compositions.
Perhaps a product of his synesthesia (he sees sounds!) or a consequence of being a British expatriate (read: seriously sexy accent), Hynes’s appeal is undeniably complex. Soulful and fun yet brooding and artful, his songs have an ambiguously queer quality about them. Eighties disco, nineties synth-pop and melodic harmonies at times resembling Kabuki music render his genre refreshingly undecipherable. His subtle androgyny and distinctive style, indicative of a confident non-conformist, only add to his enigma.
Despite high potential for suffocating snobbery, Hynes and his band performed throughout the show grinning ear to ear, earnestly having fun jamming with friends to a more than welcoming audience. LA crowds can be stiff, but the performance elicited a dance-party vibe replete with loud sing-alongs. Hynes was captivating, sitting on the stage among us during a heart-wrenching serenade of his closing act “Time Will Tell” while fans adoringly snapped photos and slapped fives.
Hynes refrained from playing an encore, leaving the crowd desperately seeking more, only adding to his intrigue. We anxiously await his next stop in LA – he’s far more than “Good Enough” for this town…