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Review: Passion Pit at College Park Center

Posted 11:23am on Saturday, Sep. 15, 2012

Apart from a handful of songs, Passion Pit's albums have never grabbed me.

That's changed after seeing the Boston-based sextet in action Friday at Arlington's College Park Center. Watching frontman Michael Angelakos, restlessly pacing the foot of the stage, walking right up to the edge as if he wanted to fling himself into the mass of people at his feet, Passion Pit's music sprang to life in a way it never has on record. Angelakos and his five bandmates are as invested as those who were pressed up against the barrier, arms outstretched and shouting every line back at the stage.

Although the College Park Center wasn't as jampacked as it was in March for Drake's sold-out show -- the arena's uppermost deck was curtained off and its middle section of seats woefully barren -- there was no less energy. (This show, along with rapper Flo Rida's Oct. 19 concert, marks another cultural coup for the just-opened center, as these heavy hitters bypass Dallas.)

Wisely opening with its hit single of the moment, Take a Walk, Passion Pit avoided the trap set for most buzz bands by not only giving the crowd what it came for up front, but also working overtime to engage the crowd (which, honestly, didn't need much prodding) and rendering its slickly produced songs with panache. The set list pulled liberally from the band's latest album, Gossamer, but also reached back to its debut, 2009's Manners. The backdrop, featuring the cover for Gossamer, was deliberately minimal, and the light show augmented the often-gorgeous swirls of sound, given weight by chest-rattling bass and wings by Angelakos' swoony falsetto.

Despite the band's turbulent summer (an infamously revealing Pitchfork article; a handful of scrapped dates attributed to Angelakos' mental state), nothing appeared awry Friday night. Angelakos, who could've passed for an adjunct instructor, didn't let up from first note to last, keeping the on-stage patter to a minimum, but giving his all with every song, his button-down shirt soaked with sweat by show's end.

So, it turns out cerebral, cinematic electro-pop can be kinetic and engaging, as Passion Pit repeatedly demonstrated Friday night -- it's just a matter of getting out of your own head and onto the stage.

The opening acts did a fine job setting the tone for the evening, with L.A.'s Pacific Air skating awfully close to wholesale approximation of Passion Pit's airy, electronic sound, and Austin's Octopus Project delivering full-bore instrumental freak-outs that had the audience roaring its appreciation.

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