There is something in the air when it comes to Chicago band, Loyal Divide, as is evidenced by the near sub-zero temperatures that haunt their gigs. Thursday night was the 3rd time in 2009 that I have witnessed the band perform on a single-digit evening with only their most dedicated fans out to support them and their electro-rock oeuvre.
Playing at the Empty Bottle on the December 10th with Flights, Alpha Centauri, and Color Radio, Loyal Divide headlined an evening of synthesizers, epic keys, and raised voices. The size of the crowd hardly fitting the budding bands’ large sounds.
’09 has been a big year for Loyal Divide. Beyond making the rounds of Chicago’s garage band venues, they opened for Chromeo at The Congress Theatre, filmed a music video, began recording their first full-length album. and booked SXSW 2010. Their continued development is no surprise as there is no lack of ingenuity amongst their ranks. The Empty Bottle found them testing new material on their audience with tunes like, "Ancestor," "Originoto," and "Baladron" that venture out of the band’s typically brooding sound and into slightly sunnier territory. One cannot help but give Loyal Divide kudos for continuing to push themselves to evolve past work weighed down by outside influence.
However, despite their deserved success, on Thursday night, Loyal Divide was missing a sharpness characteristic of earlier performances. The new songs played sounded fresh, but tried and true work from their 2008 EP, Labrador, skimped on the intensity that has drawn listeners in the past. The screams in "Vision Vision" weren’t as painful, and the roiling beats of "Labrador" weren’t as dance inspiring as one has come to expect.
Thursday’s set could have stood for more of co-frontman Chris Sadek’s falsetto vocals and quirky fervor, leaving cohort Adam Johnson to fiddle with the gadgets he attended to and perhaps work on smoothing transitions between songs. Where the flow of the concert was interrupted with incongruous and goofy samples of valley girls, Loyal Divide would have been better served with work on gracefully fusing one song to the next, keeping the audience in the world of their music.
But if experimenting with new material was the bent of this performance at the Empty Bottle, Loyal Divide picked the right night. Supported by a mostly familiar crowd who appreciated their work, it was the appropriate moment to test new elements of the act. Though one expects a little more than from a group with such talent, this show was no deterrent.