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Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Santa Monica Pier's Twilight Concert 9/1/16. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

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Bands that are able to faithfully recreate the sonics of their albums “live” earn high marks in my book. They earn even higher marks when the music is incredibly complex to begin with. With their performance at the Santa Monica Pier at last week’s Twilight Concert, Unknown Mortal Orchestra earned a perfect score.

I’ve always enjoyed Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s music. I absolutely loved their latest effort, “Multi-Love”. That album still had the psychedelic coloring which fills the prior two UMO albums, but with his latest effort, Ruban Neilson seemed to infuse to refreshing dollop of soul into his writing. The songs seemed to be, and feel, more personal and introspective.

But to call it neo-soul would be hugely underselling the album’s musicality. There are twists and turns in the arrangements, layers and layers of synth sounds that create a modern day “wall of sound” and seemingly oddly placed instrumental flourishes that somehow work. Honestly … I had my doubts that Ruban and company could make the live sound sound as good as the recordings on the album. I was wrong

UMO kicked off their set with “From the Sun” (from the band’s second studio album “II”) followed by an older composition, “How Can U Luv Me”. It was interesting to hear in that span of 10 minutes how the band’s sound has changed over the years. Even with changing their musicality, UMO’s fan base has continued to grow and as I stood in there in the audience, I watched older fans in tie-dye shirts swaying to the their psychedelic grooves, and younger fans in their “urban outfitters” ensemble bouncing to the sounds of Ruben’s guitar playing, singing every word of “So Good At Being In Trouble”. But regardless of the “style” of music UMO has shifted to, they never lost their signature style which is rooted in the sultry, lazy vocals and seductively bold lyrics that Ruban sings.

Ruban has previously discussed the ménage à trois theme that inspired the record. It is the artist’s complex vision on love, lust and trust that gives us a seductive variation of a melodramatic musical novel. That story was played to perfection at the Santa Monica Pier. While Ruban sang of the emotional complexities that he endured leading up to the recording of “Multi-Love”, I savored the overwhelming wash of sound like good wine, letting my inner “taste buds” distinguish the undertones of a vintage disco wrapped up in a psycho modern funk package (i.e “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”).

Ruban’s vocals added an extra melancholic tenderness to the provocative songs, and that intimacy and gave the concert-goers sneak a peak into the private world of the artist’s bittersweet paradoxical relationships.

I would be very remiss if I didn’t add that the band was exceptionally good this evening. Each of the players (instrumentalists and background vocalists) had individual moments to showcase their talents during the performance. I particularly enjoyed UMO’s keyboardist (Quincy McCrary). During one of the jam sessions, he stepped out and played what I thought was a short variation of certain Stevie Wonder chord profession. After the band had finished their set, I saw Quincy back stage. I had to ask him:

ME: You didn’t happen to throw in a little of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” during your solo, did you?

QUINCY: (Smiling) Yeah. Good ear.

I was overjoyed to hear that.

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