Walk Off the Earth
with Parachute and Camera2
Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Thursday, January 16, 2014
YouTube can be a callous place. It's a platform where acclaim and glory are earned and/or lost in the blink of an eye -- or the closing of a tab. It's also a place where Canada's Walk Off the Earth gained a lot of notoriety for their cover of "Somebody That I Used to Know." Well, Gotye is, ahem, somebody that we used to know, but the quintet is still around and holding residency for two sold-out shows at the Varsity.
The band's set opened up with an epic build up of flashing lights, leading to the driving "Speeches," and the crowd sensed the excitement, crowding as close as they could to the stage. Anticipation, as we have learned well from Christmas mornings, can be the deal-breaker in any situation, and Walk Off the Earth did not disappoint with covers of B.O.B.'s "Magic" and a surprising addition of Jane's Addiction's "Stop." The group has used their covers as a bridge to lead to their original pieces, bringing out songs like their linfectious single "Red Hands," which sounds like a cross between an Imagine Dragons and Bastille song -- both bands that have a hit with a "world music" vibe to them.
Thursday evening at the Varsity was not just a sonic experience, but also a visual experience. WOTE has all sorts of elements from glow in the dark confetti that flew from their percussion set as they drummed up a storm, to the game of musical instruments that they played as they consistently changed parts in the songs. The same speaks for their tunes.
Walk Off the Earth is excellent at displaying their range in musical diversity, spanning from pop to indie to reggae. Perhaps it's because each member is so unique, and with three lead singers, they can each take a stab at a different sound. Ryan Marshall's gravelly, articulate vocals lay the groundwork and complement for Sarah Blackwood's caramel-smooth voice. With Gianni Luminati, the range stretches to higher notes and moves to different territories like in the rap sections of "Sometimes." All the members act as one unit, adding subtleties and layers to each song. The group is multi-talented and tight in their delivery and everything they do. Their videos sometimes have a quirky vibe, but they are serious enough musicians to detract from that. Think of them as a version of Weird Al without the weird.
It was nice to see a band that grew their fanbase from covers actually pull from their original songs for the majority of their set. They enjoy writing pieces with a reggae flavor, such as "No Ulterior Motives" and "Gang of Rhythm." These all added to the party vibe of the evening, which the band successfully set out to do.
Closing out their set with a cover of Rihanna's "Man Down" and the super catchy "Gang of Rhythm," complete with giant balloons that kept knocking into the Varsity's chandeliers, the finale was so huge that the crowd was left wondering with what could be left in the night? Once the crowd was amped up, the band came back to open the encore with a sweet cover of Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes," and segued into what everyone was waiting for: their version of "Somebody That I Used to Know."
As the audience sang along to the catchy pop song, it was easy to see why the piece was so popular when it first came out. What could have been awkward and overambitious to play each night, actually delighted because of the smooth performance of the tune by five people on one guitar. Cue the cameras and iPhones. The show didn't end there, though. Despite the freezing temperatures outside, "Summer Vibe" brought in a summer vibe as promised, complete with karoake-like cue cards for the crowd to sing along to.
Nicknamed the "buzz band" of the moment, Walk Off the Earth show that they are much more than a cover band. Surprises can show up on a Thursday night in Minneapolis in the form of joyful chaos.
|Photo by Youa Vang|
Critic's bias: Besides "Red Hands," I can't name one original Walk Off the Earth song that I honestly know, but the band proved themselves many times over by selling out two shows to start out their tour.
The crowd: Suburbanites that knew all of the words to the songs and willing to brave the cold.
Overheard in the crowd: During opener Parachute's cover of "Dancing In the Dark" -- "Is this that Courtney Love song? Oh, I mean Courtney Cox."
Random notebook dump: During their encore, WOTE mentioned two years ago how they had trouble bringing ten people to a show. Look at them now.
Magic (B.O.B. cover)
Corner of Queen
Sing It All Away
No Ulterior Motives
Stop (Jane's Addiction cover)
Man Down (Rihanna cover)
Gang of Rhythm
Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover)
Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye cover)