The Radio Dept. at the 7th St. Entry, 2/9/11

The Radio Dept.
February 9, 2011
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis

If the sold-out Radio Dept. show at the Entry last night surprised anyone, it would have to have been the Radio Dept. itself. The Stockholm-based band, producing synth dream pop for over a decade now, have been celebrated and beloved all over the world, but to look at the bashful trio, you would never know it.

The boys--lead vocalist and guitarist Johan Duncanson, guitarist Martin Larsson and keyboard/synths player Daniel Tjäder--slinked quietly on stage 20 minutes after their scheduled set time and began with the piano-heavy "Freddie and the Trojan Horse." They are throwbacks to My Bloody Valentine and the Joy Division, and the packed crowd at the Entry riotously welcomed their tunes. The fan-favorite track "David" was met with rampant excitement, and at some intervals it seemed like sections of the audience in a competition for loudest enthusiast (or maybe they were just that drunk).

The Radio Dept.'s sound has been compared to Saint Etienne and the Pet Shop Boys, and with good reason; as the band exercised its well-honed dream pop sound, it pervaded the atmosphere with a delicate, sparkling energy that even the boys' lackluster personalities couldn't diminish.

Songs like "Pulling Our Weight" and "Where Damage Is Already Done" feature a daedal layering that Duncanson's hushed vocals gently entwine with; there is something entirely precious about these songs. If quiet moments before the sun rises had a sound, it would be provided by the Radio Dept. Sure, the on-stage presence of the lauded Swedish band may be less than stellar--and for the wrong crowd, highly isolating--but somehow, befitting of the music they are producing. Listen to the slow, despondent "I Wanted You to Feel the Same" and you won't be able to picture some exuberant character tearing up a stage.

The band plowed through over a dozen songs in their 50-minute set, and left the stage one at a time, Duncanson first, then Larsson, and finally Tjäder, who left a recording playing. The audience demanded an encore, of course--and they waited nearly ten minutes for one--but they were rewarded with one of the most high energy songs of the evening, "The City Limit," which closed the night in a noisy blast of guitar riffs and electronic drum beats--only slightly louder than the cheers of the crowd.

Critic's Bias: I've been hooked on the Radio Dept. since a friend introduced me to them a year ago... and I'm already predisposed to adore European transplants of any kind, soooo....
The Crowd: Tight. And adoring, regardless of how uncharismatic the band was, the music was spot-on, and that's what they were there for, after all.  
Overheard In The Crowd: "It's like an acid trip!" yelled some highly inebriated guy to my right of the music.
Random Notebook Dump: Young Prisms were the opening band, and a highly appropriate one at that. Their sound is the same sleepy electro-pop on some songs that the Radio Dept. has down, but the Young Prisms are heavier on electric strings and don't shy away from noisy grunge, either. Recommended.

Set list:
Freddie and the Trojan Horse
This Time Around
New Improved Hypocrisy
I Wanted You to Feel the Same
The Worst Taste in Music
Messy Enough
Why Won't You...?
You Stopped Making Sense
Domestic Scene
Heaven's On Fire
Never Followed Suit
Closing Scene
The City Limit

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