The expectation I held for Cut Copy’s concert at the Newport Wednesday wasn’t an exceedingly high one. Given that the Melbourne disco-rock troupe is touring in support of an album titled “Free Your Mind,” which dons a piercingly blue cover with text filled with a gradient of radiating rainbows, I had a preconceived notion the set was going to be a trite mess of overblown psychedelia, both in the band’s performance and ambiance.
Luckily, that was not the case.
Frontman Dan Whitford led a composed concert, serving as an audience maestro of sorts; whether he was raising his arms, fist pumping or inciting a clap-along, it not only seamlessly coincided with a particular song’s rhythm but also proved he is his own hype man. Where other bands might wait for breaks in a song to interact with the audience, Whitford had the right idea all along. With only mild shifting in his arm position, Whitford triggered club-like frenzy (as on songs “Free Your Mind,” “Hearts on Fire” and mostly every other song for that matter) and “Kumbaya”-esque sway (“Walking in the Sky” and especially “Where I’m Going”). All of this illustrated that Whitford is a well-rehearsed frontman with a finesse in connecting with a crowd, and the rest of the band was equally on point.
Artists that showcase a sound even slightly electronic seem to be typified, perhaps erroneously so, into being druggy in their concert atmosphere. Once again, “Free Your Mind” as a title in Cut Copy’s case doesn’t help matters. On the contrary, save an audacious handful, audience members appeared largely clear-headed — a rarity at most shows. This gives more credit to Cut Copy and Whitford as performers; the aforementioned frenzies were authentic, not the kind that might be stereotyped at EDM festivals or an early-morning set at Bonnaroo.
To be clear, Cut Copy is by no means electronic dance music in what has become the traditional sense. Besides the fact the group uses electronic timbres, this band is more in line with New Order-meets-Deerhunter than, say, Pretty Lights.
The light show, an otherwise overlooked aspect in some concert experiences, worked very much to Cut Copy’s advantage. Rather than ominous dark lights, the lights pursued illumination and were orchestrated well with the sonic performance. Highlights of the light show were during the set’s last two songs pre-encore, “Meet Me in the House of Love” and “Lights & Music,” where the backdrop was likened to being in an extremely violent storm on a Doppler radar.
Cut Copy excelled in raising intensity and energy, and even though the songs were performed predominantly in the same format (each song heard a pitter-patter of little beats in its introduction, only to turn into an all-out storm at its climax) throughout the set, the band surpassed every expectation this reviewer had anticipated in its show.
“Need You Now,” one of the band’s most iconic pieces — and arguably one of the best tracks of 2011 — closed out the night as the most eagerly-awaited song (like waiting for Pixies’ “Debaser”). The crowd’s aura and reaction were imperative to the entertainment quality of Cut Copy, and, in a sense, it was this song that represented just that. As the title of this tune might indicate, Cut Copy needs us as urgently as we need it. The concert the Newport housed Wednesday serves as a case in point.
Correction: A former version of this story incorrectly stated Cut Copy frontman’s as Dan Whitman. In fact, his name is Dan Whitford.