An indie-electro show can be tough to get right. Without traditional instruments being played live, it can be difficult for the band to maintain the interest of the crowd. This problem can be alleviated if there is a powerful presence ruling the stage (see Austra).
Unfortunately for Purity Ring Megan James is not the same sort of tour-de-force. In fact, when she speaks to the audience, she is far more retiring than rockstar. So facing these challenges – and the fact that their back catalogue is mostly filled with understated gems – how do Purity Ring make a live show a spectacle?
Certainly, they struggled to answer that question last time.
This time, though, things are different. While new album ‘Another Eternity’ has added some bombast to the more ambient feel of debut ‘Shrines’, they have added so much more than an added sonic kick to the mix.
James and Corin Roddick – the man charged with pressing the buttons and twiddling the knobs – arrive on a stage which appears to be decorated in row after row of something between bead curtains and fairy lights.
For opener Stranger than Earth, the light setup and smoke machine has the stage resembling more an enchanted, purple forest than the Button Factory. At its centre, weaving in and out of the trees (the hanging light fixtures) is James, the enigmatic nymph a role that suits her so much better than that of rockstar.
What follows for the next hour is one of the most intriguing and beguiling light shows Dublin is likely to see this year, or any other. Whether it’s the hanging lights, the musical illuminating crystals that Roddick plays, the arched spotlight rig that James plays like a piano using mirrored gloves or the large moon-shaped gong hanging high in the background, the show is never less than visually spectacular.
It all glows and ripples in perfect time to the music, changing the mood of the venue as quickly as the music can. For Repetition, it’s all blue with golden lights (somewhat reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Fortune Faded), while for Obedear the LED forest bubbles green and white like a psychedelic, sentient 7Up ad.
All the while, somewhat easy to forget given the treat for the eyes, there is beautifully rendered music coming from the stage. It is hard to tell what is actually coming live, but it hardly seems to matter, given it remains a treat for the eyes and ears nevertheless.
‘Shrine’ duo Belispeak and Fineshrine are the musical highlights of the evening, coming in just before a shows second half slump where Dust Hymn and Stillness in Woe fail to really offer anything substantial to proceedings. Bodyache and Begin Again bring things musically back to their natural high point.
The music was never the problem for Purity Ring before though, it was their failure to create a spectacle. It’s safe to say that this is not a problem for them anymore.