The first time I saw Cut Copy, the band performed with The Presets at the 9:30 Club in a September 2008 show that people universally remember as being really damn good.
Part of the reason for the success of that show was some pretty strong material the band released earlier that year in its sophomore album, In Ghost Colors, which was all around a great album. Indeed, I’ll go so far as to hail it as one of the Very Important Albums of the past 10 years—a definitive moment in the full embrace of New Wave-inspired dance music as indie kids again were deciding that dominant synths were not only socially acceptable but completely desirable. At Echostage on Thursday, March 20, the audience still gave its biggest reaction to “Hearts on Fire” and “Lights and Music” in the Cut Copy setlist, underscoring how those songs have managed to stick in the collective consciousness of the dancehall masses.
Cut Copy’s fourth album, Free Your Mind, continues an impressive arc that brought the band from selling out 1,000+ capacity clubs to the 6,000-capacity Echostage. It’s one thing to continue to make great music, but it’s quite another to continue to build your audience and make that leap from a band that does $25 shows to $50 shows—a very tricky proposition indeed. Cut Copy has managed to stay fresh in part due to an appealing earnestness in their music, and a much needed lyrical evolution. The power of the band’s appeal also comes from its ability to straddle a clearly defined space, in a similar manner as did New Order 25-30 years ago I would argue. Like the original New Order, Cut Copy have a powerful lineup of talented musicians on keyboards, guitar, bass and drums; and like the older band, they have shown a love of house music that has become a defining attribute of their sound without completely overwhelming it.
As evidence, Cut Copy opened their show last week with “We Are Explorers,” perhaps the best song from the new album and a very effective opening song as it invites the audience along for a journey through the band’s catalog. Soon, Cut Copy acknowledge their third album, Zonoscope, with “Take Me Over.” But it truly is the enthusiasm with which vocalist Dan Whitford and company tackle the new material that sells the concert. Despite battling a bit of a bug that made him sound a little bit more nasal than usual, Whitford energetically launched himself into new standards like “Free Your Mind” and “Let Me Show You Love.”
The latter song is fairly significant as it showcases Cut Copy’s ability to experiment successfully with different sounds. The neo-psychedelic “Let Me Show You Love” is slinky seduction, and it serves as a strong complement to Cut Copy’s sonic palette, slipping and tripping into the latter half of the set quite seamlessly. While it is certainly “more psych” than its companion songs performed from the album, “Let Me Show You Love” fits neatly alongside “Walking in the Sky” and “In Memory Capsule” as thematic tributes to the Summer of Love conceptually sought by the Australian quartet in their latest album.
Maybe something about DC brings out the best in the band–bassist Ben Browning certainly has shown a clear fondness for our area–but they truly managed to captivate and energize a very large crowd at Echostage (which alone is a lackluster venue that I’m not in a hurry to visit again). Cut Copy play a select few more North American dates over the next week in what will amount to an inexplicably brief tour before they return to the United States for some festivals, at least in May and June. Wherever they play, it’s a great opportunity to see a great show by a band at the top of their game.