Active Child @ Hi-Dive, 09-19-11

I am proposing a name swap.  After seeing How To Dress Well and Active Child perform the same stage, in the same venue, in the same week, I believe it is Pat Grossi who knows how to dress well and Tom Krell who is the active child.  I mean, c’mon…Krell is tall and lanky, has disheveled hair, nondescript clothing, wears glasses and drinks brown liquor from a bottle in his jacket pocket.  Meanwhile, Grossi walks into the venue sporting a clean cut head of hair, a fitted button down shirt, designer jeans and is surrounded by friends who look like they just stepped out of limo.  How To Dress Well is the kid in the basement making lo-fi recordings infused with his love of r&b.  Active Child is a classically trained harpist with a refined disposition and a falsetto that can make angels cry.  These two artists sound so good together on Active Child‘s latest single, Playing House, but on stage they could not be more different.  Both are standout artists on the scene and I highly recommend everything they have released, but on this particular week, Active Child was the much better show.

The trio took the stage just before 11:00pm and kicked things off with High Priestess from the incredible new album, You Are All I See.  The sound was as good as I have ever experience at the Hi-DiveGrossi‘s voice filled the room, floating on layers of percussion and the sounds of his fingers on the harp.  Rotating instruments (harp to keyboard, keyboard to guitar, etc), the first half of the set consisted of mostly new material.  I doubt I was the only one hoping Krell was still in town and would make a surprise appearance for Playing House, but I also doubt I was the only one that was not disappointed in how it was handled in his absence.

There were a few technical difficulties before they took us through most of the Curtis Lane EP, but from where I was standing, the sound was still perfect.  There wasn’t much interaction with the small, but attentive crowd, but this performance was so heartfelt and personal, you couldn’t help but feel you were watching a friend perform.  When someone in the crowd yelled ‘I got 5 on it!‘ during the opening chords of When Your Love Is Safe, Grossi ran with it and started singing The Luniz track before taking us away with that song that reminds everyone of the love that could never be.

When Johnny Belinda was introduced as ‘the last song‘, we all knew it was a bluff.  I’m In Your Church At Night had been promised earlier and that promise was fulfilled during the single song encore.  Standing in a dive bar, surrounded by people who know how to dress well, listening to Grossi sing that song while playing a harp, it was hard not to believe that the Hi-Dive had been transformed into a church that night.

Chad Valley opened the show with an impressive one-man performance that had many people talking.  I am looking forward to hearing more from him.

Setlist:
High Priestess
Shield & Sword
Hanging On
Way Too Fast
Playing House
Take Shelter
I Got 5 on It (clip)
When Your Love Is Safe
Weight of the World
Wilderness
Ancient Eye
Johnny Belinda

I’m In Your Church At Night