Polychromatic lights cut through the hazy air that filled the Majestic Theatre on Thursday night as Cherub took the stage for their Baby Angels tour.
Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber, both wearing mostly black clothes reminiscent of the grunge fashion of the early 90s, started their set with high-energy performances and a pulsing bass line palpable throughout the intimate and historical venue. The duo brought a pleasantly eccentric aura to the stage and maintained a laid back demeanor that always remained fully engaged with their music and fans.
They were preceded by two opening acts: one DJ-singer duo and one lone DJ who set the tone for the night. The first act played familiar tunes to excite the audience and get them dancing, and the second kept the excitement going with even more danceable, upbeat tracks.
The old theater housed a truly club-like feel for the first couple of hours, which all felt very anachronistic against the vintage gold leaf design that framed the stage, the ornate trimming adorning the ceiling and the grand marquis outside that greeted concert-goers.
Kelley and Huber played a variety of instruments over a backing track throughout their set. Kelley held the limelight captive through most of the songs, singing lead vocals and playing guitar. Occasionally, he’d break out a talk box to blend vocals with his guitar to create a new sound, almost giving the instrument its own voice. When the talk box was out, Cherub was at some of their best.
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Huber offered a more understated performance but a skillfully dynamic one nonetheless. His role in the band seemed to change with every song they played — swapping a guitar for a bass and back again, beating on an electric drumkit between chords, using a soundboard to achieve the band’s electro-indie style, or stepping up to the microphone to provide backing vocals, sometimes in the form of impressively lengthy sustained notes — all the while maintaining a cheerful smile as he danced along to the music.
Cherub kept the atmosphere light and carefree all night, playing several of their new singles, including “Dancin’ Shoes,” “All In” and “Want That.” For one song, Kelley warned they were about to slow it down, but promised to keep it “sensual” before playing a lower tempo song that didn’t lose any of the danceability of the previous ones.
The crowd gathered on the dance floor reacted in kind to Cherub’s excitement the entire night, dancing and yelling responses to Kelley’s brief but charismatic introductions to each song. Many people in the audience showed up in costume — they were eager to get into the spirit of the season and into the groove of the music.
Cherub was just as delighted to be there as their audience was, frequently responding to individual crowd members’ outbursts or reaching out a hand to anyone lucky enough to have wedged themselves into the front row. Kelley, especially, reveled in the audience’s antics.
After one fan reached out for more than his hand when his back was turned, Kelley responded with a laugh, saying, “Go ahead. You can smack it,” before turning back around to offer up another opportunity for a pat. At one point, Kelley even got offstage and enmeshed himself with the crush of people on the dance floor.
The Tennessee-based duo seem to take great pleasure in the traveling that touring demands. Kelley joyously recounted the last time they had performed in Madison and how they met “new friends” at the local bar and restaurant, Merchant, after the show was over.
A quick scroll through their Twitter feed confirms this story. As they do onstage, the duo frequently interacts with fans, reminiscing on past performances and enthusiastically entertain the prospects of visiting new cities.
“As long as there are people that want to come out and sing these songs with us, we will be there,” Cherub tweeted.
Considering the size and enthusiasm of the crowd on Thursday, it is likely Cherub will find their way back to Madison on their future tours, and when they do, be sure to pick up tickets for a unique and heartfelt performance.