Washed Out Live at The Wilbur

Washed Out Live

On a brisk mid-September evening, the assembly of flowers along the stage at the Wilbur Theatre emanated a warm homage to a fleeting summer. Vines of petals hung above the plethora of cymbals, effects pedals, keys, and guitar strings; and the green astroturf that sprawled along the front of the stage provided cushioning to neat, little compression mics that stood patiently erect like steel tulips. In the middle of Boston’s theater district there was a stage meshing into a soft, pulsating ceremony for the warm-hearted seeking a beat, awaiting the sounds of Washed Out.

Tall, hollowed pillars of white, knitted drapery embodied with lightbulbs stood on both ends of the stage; they shined a glow that resembled a relaxed backyard gathering where one’s bound to hear laughter and chatter. The only thing absent were the crickets. Soon enough, right after 8pm, Haerts took the stage. Stationed in New York City but hailing from Germany, England and the US, Haerts kicked off their set with twinkling bells that laced front-woman Nini Fabi’s hands as they cascaded into their set. Haerts’ sound was clear and their performance evoked sounds one can liken to Mazzy Star, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and a little Jewel (from Fabi’s country-esque vocal twang).

After Haerts left the stage, the crowd stood lulled in anticipation. Ernest Greene subtly wandered onto the stage before his performance to carefully inspect the band’s gear with a blue Dixie cup in hand. He’s made his aggravating tendencies towards perfection known in interviews—but live, his meticulous vision hovering over each instrument and synth station is imbued with a calmness one can only attribute to humble preparation for creative indulgence. He leaves the stage just as surreptitiously as he came onto it (only a few in the crowd seem to notice this) leaving then, not only the crowd in waiting, but the shiny Fenders, upright bass and pedal boards anxious. Soon enough he returned accompanied by an entourage of four other musicians appropriately launching into “It all Feels Right.” With an acoustic guitar strapped to his chest and a heavy kick drum thumping in the atmosphere Greene sang his opening melody tenderly: “Close my eyes, ‘think about the old times. What’s it all about? The feeling when it all works out.”

When “All I Know” is performed the aura of Washed Out’s latest release, Paracosm, becomes fully fleshed out. Greene’s vocals are well-pronounced and the disco hi-hat pounces through the air with the shimmers of stage light. Paracosm is Greene’s most organically created work to date—including broader guitar arrangements, clearer vocals and live percussion. So it’s no wonder that when performed with the backing of a full band, Paracosm‘s sounds feel exceedingly textured, vibrant and close to the recordings. This is especially apparent with “Falling Back,” which was played towards the last half of the set. Each band-member’s body swayed into rhythmic synchronization as Washed Out’s electro-pop sensibilities cracked wide open. Performed live, this song is quite magnetizing with it’s layers of star-shooting synth effects and tight, hollowed tom fills that stitch together a bitter-sweet harmony. With a five o’clock shadow and hair tied back, Greene repeated with closed eyes into his mic, “you’re falling back, you’re falling back.”

Each synth stand and all the hardware on stage was delicately laced with buds that twinkled white light, giving the effect of summer bugs in flight, dispelling their hums into Boston’s dawning autumn. The band left the stage for a moment before being ushered back in by the claps and shouts of the crowd hungry for an encore. The band tiptoed back into position playing two more songs. Aware of the imminent finale, people swayed along the banisters of the Wilbur’s balconies and beneath it’s chandelier that loomed like a golden beehive amidst the whooshing of cascading resonance and beat, and as the closing wheeled in, the stage faded into the blue of a late-dusk dawn. Greene bid farewell, “Until next time,” as all were left with a piece of his warm, imaginary world humming in their ears.

By Jen Villalobos
Photo by Trevor Gage

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