Photos by FL Morris / email@example.com
Review by Gary Chun
Sometimes, you just have to thank your lucky stars that you were able to witness a concert special enought that it will be talked about for months.
That happened last night at Pipeline Cafe, when New Orleans rock band MUTEMATH made their Hawaii debut. In the parlance of performers, MUTEMATH “killed it.”
Even though the band has had a few forays into the national limelight, thanks to songs like “Typical,” “Spotlight” and “Backfire,” the quartet of guitarist Greg Hill, singer-keyboardist Paul Meany, bassist Roy Mitchell Cardenas and drummer Darren King have really made their reputation as a live band. Here in Honolulu, they didn’t disappoint at all, making many new fans.
The tightly focused set they played may have been one they’ve done many times on the road before, but the guys didn’t phone it in. MUTEMATH played with commitment and verve, and besides Meany, who is a charismatic frontman with a fine voice, everybody had their moment to shine.
Putting King and his drum kit along the front line as part of the stage setup was a brilliant idea, because the man is a show unto himself, as he and rhythm-mate Cardenas attacked the songs’ beats and grooves with an authority that can be traced back to the band’s Nawlins roots. Hill’s guitar sound was at times reminiscent of the Edge’s approach in the early years of U2, with its chiming notes and chords.
The strength of MUTEMATH’s sound is its ability to draw on the strengths of all kinds of music. Their hit songs sound great live — the buildup in “Typical” blew me away — and when they go off on rhythmic tangents, like during the extended encore, MUTEMATH always finds its way back home.
And I give props to Meany, who acknowledged the memory of Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole by leading the band through a toned-down, reggae-groove version of “Peculiar People” that wouldn’t sound out of place in any given local club. By night’s end, the Pipeline crowd had succumbed to — taking a phrase from the band’s song “Control” — the “beautiful surrender” of MUTEMATH’s music.
The band’s return to the islands wouldn’t be too soon.