Often, I arrive at concert and glance up at the set filling the stage — especially at The Sylvee, where the large, dull stage desperately needs items to fill it to appear like an exciting space. Typically, I see large murals and giant amps fill the space to give the dreary base of the venue some life. While aesthetically pleasing, this usually alludes to the lack of supple instrumentation for the touring acts.
The Revivalists didn’t require such a set to fill their stage Friday, as the eight-member group occupied the entire stage with their assortment of instruments. The arrangements seemed to mirror the high level of production on their latest album, Take Good Care — yet even with the massive set-up, the band had to tweak pieces to perform them live, as keyboardist and trumpeter Michael Girardot noted.
“We do change a lot of stuff when we go and translate the songs to live,” Girardot said. “We’re playing the songs live in the room, so obviously we can’t have 16 vocalists when we only have eight guys on stage.”
The night’s setlist consisted mostly of tunes off of Take Good Care, and provided a fresh sound for the audience. Their set did not rely too heavily on their tried-and-true songs to propel the evening forward.
Of particular note was the band’s latest single, “Change.” Showcasing the clever wordplay the band is known for with a snappy underlying beat, the song felt like a natural addition to any party playlist.
Receiving aid from producers of various backgrounds and utilizing a couple of older songs in their catalog, the night’s setlist displayed nuanced styles throughout the evening. For example, the show seemed to transport the audience to a nighttime, backyard party during “Chasing Fireflies” and “Celebration.” Produced by country producer Dave Cobb, the song was recorded with every instrument simultaneously, creating an easily transferable sound to the live environment.
This is quite a contrast to the popular single, “Wish I Knew You,” which takes a more traditional, adult approach. Riling up fans during the encore, this song, along with “Change,” have both earned earworm status from me.
While The Sylvee’s size allows for a greater variety of popular acts to come through Madison, there’s still something about the venue which doesn’t seem quite right. The standing room crowds are especially hard to maneuver during sold-out shows, therefore making the environment much more frantic than preferable most of the time. The impressive lighting capabilities of the venue allow it to make up some ground on its otherwise drab interior, which unfortunately serves to emotionally separate the audience from the act. There were times during the evening, due in part to the wonderful musical production from The Revivalists, where I legitimately thought I was listening to an album, and not witnessing the intimacy of a live performance.
While the venue provided a roadblock to an entirely integrative concert experience, the band still achieved its desired effect on the audience.
“We try to play the same way for ten people as we do for ten thousand people,” Girardot said. “What that means to us is when we go to any venue, we’re trying to create an experience that involves everyone there. The audience is a huge part of the show.”
This effect was particularly noticeable on the more stripped-down songs, like “Got Love.” The Sylvee’s air seemed to shift to a more intimate environment, even though the music and lighting were the only things transformed.
The band will look to continue sharing these vibes throughout the rest of their tour.