Last Saturday night, nearly every one of Seattle's tall, sensitive boyfriends and their cool, supportive girlfriends put down the Netflix machine and headed out to the Neptune to watch the living embodiment of a man-bun do his best Sade impression.
And let me tell you, the crowd and this reviewer were immensely pleased.
Some critics fell out of love with Rhye after the release of their latest album, Blood. And some only ever admitted a sort of begrudging tolerance for the band following their well-received debut, Woman. Rich Juzwiak does a good job summing up the general antipathy toward the group in Spin, saying that Rhye's music is "often as still as a headboard above a pair of solemn cuddlers," and that "its arrangements are so tasteful that they can verge on oppressive."
That's all well and good and fine and true. But, listen, frontman Mike Milosh's breathy, Doppler effect falsetto is an undeniably pleasant thing to happen in anyone's life. His voice is like some kind of amorous, androgynous ambulance that whisks you away to a fuzzy place where you can feel comfortable just kind of talking about it and being upfront with your needs and expectations. And that song "Blood Knows" makes me want to become a cloud and then have sex with other clouds. No anti-cuddling music reviewer can take that away from me.
In Seattle, lush red lights set the mood in the theater. Electric candles filled the stage, flickering from the tops of amplifiers and piano cases. When Milosh walked out from the wings, the hot reds faded to a pool of pinkish purples, the exact color and shade of your last breakup.
For the most part, the crowd maintained the hushed tones appropriate for the level of intimacy Rhye was trying to create in the room. But Milosh did, at times, have to work to convince the audience to use their bedroom voices. Just before starting "Song for You," Milosh cut the stage lights and tried to get the whole crowd to shush. After a while everyone went quiet, but there was still one guy talking. "If you see that guy, give him a shhh," Milosh said. I was grateful for the phrase, as it seems applicable in many cases. When you inevitably have another loud-man moment your life, give him a shhh.
But Milosh wasn't up there alone. He was joined onstage by a drummer, a bass player, a cello player, a violin player, a keyboard player, and a guitar player. Toward the end of the more upbeat songs, or sometimes in the middle of a somber one, Milosh would step into the shadows and let the band go off on an extended, horny jam session for a while. All members performed their functions beautifully, but the standout was the guitar player, whose name I regrettably forgot to write down. He struck me as a dad who unjustly plays rhythm in a very strong prog rock band on the weekends. But in Rhye, he really gets to let loose. His leads were clean and Princely in their drama. He could make the little college venue feel like an arena show for just a few minutes, and then bring it right back down with no problem. The violin player also deserves special praise for her delightfully disjunctive, hoedown playing style.
Rhye played two songs from an upcoming "gentle EP," as Milosh described it, both of which were very good. The first song "Wicked Dreams," is more of the same catchy morning sex music you'd expect, though the arrangements were more complex than I've heard in other songs. The other song wasn't named, but it was a slower, piano-driven, autumnal piece about a tumultuous relationship. "What you want from me, babe?" Milosh kept singing into the darkness. More of the same, Mike. More of the same.