I always find it a little nerve-racking to go to a concert and see nothing but two laptops and a drum set onstage. For some reason, I find it hard to believe that those are the only tools necessary to entertain an audience, least of all a sold-out crowd at Boston’s House of Blues. Pretty Lights, however, are masters of this art form and more than kept their fans happy at their show on November 5.
(Photo: Carolyne.b via Wikimedia Commons)
And when I say a ‘sold-out crowd,’ I mean an entirely sold-out show; the hall was packed. We arrived at 9 p.m., and by that time, the line to enter the House of Blues snaked all the way down Lansdowne Street. It was 9:40p.m. by the time we all got through security, and Pretty Lights had already been playing for fifteen minutes. A fellow audience member told me that they opened with ‘Total Fascination’ from their 2010 EP “Making Up A Changing Mind“. By the time we finally worked our way into the crowd, Derek Vincent Smith, the man behind the laptops, recognized how filled the venue was by saying ‘I don’t know what it is about Boston, but you’re always the first of my shows to sell out.’
One of the things I instantly noticed once getting inside were, quite literally, the pretty lights, which were perfectly timed to the music itself. On either side of the stage, there were three stands of LCD lights that flashed to accent the beat. The lights above the stage would also flash in time with the music in a multicolor array. Most memorable was the giant LCD screen behind the musicians that continuously showed animations of the various album covers. There was another LCD screen covering the table upon which Smith put all of this equipment, which gave the impression that Smith was almost floating in the projected images and animations. One of the more fun videos featured a trumpet player against a red background as ‘I Can See It In Your Face,’ also from “Making Up A Changing Mind,” played.
The formal light show was complemented by the sea of glow sticks that the crowd brought into the House of Blues. It was clear everyone had come to dance and to enjoy themselves and the music. Smith himself reciprocated the love from the audience, even at one point exclaiming ‘Y’all make us happy that y’all like good music.’ Lights aside, the set itself was seamless. Smith worked the crowd incredibly well and played songs from all of his EPs and albums. Since the transitions were so well done, it was sometimes hard to tell where one song ended and another began. Smith built up the tension in the introduction of each new number, though, and knew the perfect moment to let the beat drop so as to capitalize on the excitement in the crowd.
Pretty Lights came on for an encore that was just as rousing, if not more so, than the official set; the encore lasted a good thirty minutes. Calls from the audience to play ‘Hot Like Sauce’ from “Filling Up the City Skies” were quickly answered. The encore ended with Smith telling the crowd ‘We haven’t played this one in a while, but this is what you do to us, Boston,’ before launching into a remix of M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘Rump Shaker’ by Wreckx-n-Effect. The general consensus seemed to be that this remix was better than either of the original songs, and it certainly ended off the night on a high note. It’s clear that Pretty Lights plays for their fans, and as long as they keep on making new music, I’ll definitely keep on listening and dancing along.