Certain bands have the boon of being able to go through musical droughts and not release a lick of new music, yet still tour every year and tantalize fans with the same old song and dance. Electro-funk duo Capital Cities, made famous for their enduring radio hit “Safe and Sound,” represent just that kind of group. In the three years since their debut album A Tidal Wave of Mystery, the pair have only released two singles (although with the release of “Vowels,” there’s clear prep for a new album), but the lack of any substantial new music doesn’t matter. They have enough funk ‘n’ spunk from their debut album to sell ample concert tickets for the next decade. They even coined a phrase for the phenomenon, reflected in the title of one of their singles: “Farrah Fawcett Hair.”
“You know it when you see it/You know it when it’s there/Like Michael Jackson “Thriller” /Like Farrah Fawcett Hair” the band describes the je ne se quois that make the simple pleasures of life so exquisite. Therein lies the issue, however — the song was missing from Capital Cities set last night (November 2) at the Paradise Rock Club, as were a lot of songs from A Tidal Wave of Mystery. Upon hearing the first three songs — a Pink Floyd cover, 2014 single “One Minute More,” and unreleased tune “Space,” fans couldn’t help but wonder if they were in the wrong place.
It was “Kangaroo Court,” however, the slinky fourth song of the set, that affirmed yes, this was the correct dance-off show fans had spent their hard-earned dough to see.
“There’s a dark part of town where the girls get down/And I cannot wait for a chance to go,” Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian echoed together, confirming what felt like the real start of the show. Cut to swirling pop confection “Origami” and carny-like “Chartreuse,” some of the finest tracks from A Tidal Wave of Mystery, lively as ever when performed with booming trumpet player Will Artpope. During “Center Stage,” the band taught the crowd the Capital Cities shuffle, a beer-spilling line dance tradition practiced at nearly all of their concerts. Not a single detail from the songs was neglected, from the most minute strokes on Simonian’s keyboard, to the canned sexy-gal voice quipping “allllll riiiiise” on “Kangaroo Court.”
Yet, of the 15 songs they performed (a sweet 16 if you count the finale remix and second time, albeit recorded, of playing “Safe and Sound”), three were covers, and three were unheard new tunes that the crowd couldn’t sing along with. The song choices on the setlist posed as a bit of a head-scratcher. Why nix songs from an album that had no filler in favor of some oldies (or, far too new tunes) that fans might not appreciate? Madonna’s “Holiday” and Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” filled the majority of the encore, and the “Safe and Sound” canned remix capped off the night with frathouse-level energy as Merchant and Simonian hopped into the crowd (no moshing, only fist-pumping; we all know the ‘Dise’s strict “feet on the ground” policy).
Mingling as one, fans and pop stars emptied their proverbial gas tanks to the beat of the set’s last song, twirling damp sweatshirts midair and wearing out the rubber soles of the sneakers. First and foremost, Capital Cities show promise to deliver a party — a vow that ultimately, no number of covers can ever bring down.