The latest from Cut Copy, Free Your Mind, made a subsequent revisiting of the Jock Jams compilation album series seem like a totally reasonable indulgence. On the album, which dropped earlier this month, the Aussie synth pop group pumps up the jams with a specifically curated palette of late-'80s and early-'90s house sounds—"Oooh, yeah!" female vocal samples; the bass, horn and piano tones of early digital synths—favored by gridiron groovers like Black Box. "Meet Me in a House of Love," for one, seems like it could've been the B-side of Real McCoy's "Another Night."
With those influences, it would be all too easy for frontman Dan Whitford and company to tour these songs in the way typical of EDM-leaning "bands" these days: heavy on the the backing tracks. But the best part about Cut Copy live is that, save for a few exceptions, the music is live. At the jam-packed Riviera Theatre last night, the band acted like one.
This is a group of musicians that enjoy playing their instruments together. (Gee, what a concept, right?) Mop-haired and tireless Whitford, his voice never less than cool as a cucumber, busted moves like he was at Burning Man and raised his hands toward the ceiling to invoke the dance gods. It didn't take much pleading to get everyone in the place dancing. I had to question the soundness of the aging theater when the balcony I was on began visibly rocking during "Hearts on Fire," one of the few songs with an obvious backing track, and "Take Me Over," which in-person sounded even more like a reworking of Men at Work's "Down Under." The set wasn't all rave fodder; the guitar squall of "So Haunted," accompanied by blinding white lights, would've been at home at the Aragon's recent My Bloody Valentine show.
"I get that home-away-from-home vibe here in Chicago," Whitford said. In the sweaty afterglow of the two-song encore—"We Are Explorers" from Free Your Mind and the glistening Zonoscope hit "Need You Now"—I had to wonder again why Cut Copy isn't played at sports stadiums.