Concert review: Passion Pit at House of Blues, Orlando 

It's almost too easy to be critical of a band after the release of their second album; the pressure on an artist not to fail must be crushing. To many fans, the follow-up can never match the debut, no matter how much of a leap forward the band is taking. It's especially easy to nitpick when the first release is an instantly huge success, like Passion Pit's Manners. One of the most hotly anticipated follow-ups of the year, Gossamer, was destined to be one of those releases you'll either love or hate. Based on the size of the crowd that packed House of Blues last Monday evening, there are very few haters here in Florida.

First, sending out a huge "thank you" to the nicest PR team I've encountered since I've started reviewing gigs. Columbia Records kicked down an advance copy of Gossamer, an extra ticket, opera box seats, and backstage passes. I've never been pimped out quite like this, and it absolutely made the night. Our group was already overly stoked to be seeing the show at House of Blues, unanimously our favorite venue in Orlando, and the goodies were totally unexpected and very much appreciated. [Text by Deborah, photos by Mike.]

The show opened with a haze of purple light and an instrumental overture (much like the intro to Gossamer) before launching directly into "Take a Walk," which is exactly the kind of electro-pop we've come to expect from Passion Pit. The overture is appropriate, as according to the album's press release, Gossamer is a new start for vocalist Michael Angelakos. The singer had issues dealing with the sudden fame after big single "Sleepyhead" was released. Diving into a bit of a breakdown, he struggled with alcoholism and depression. Gossamer is, as a result, much more than just electro-pop, with intensely personal lyrics detailing the issues Angelakos has been dealing with. Though its themes are serious, Gossamer isn't a depressing album in the least; it's still delivered with the same quirkiness and Angelakos' joyously strong falsetto. In a live setting, if you weren't already familiar with the lyrics you wouldn't notice much besides the dance party the music induces.

The set was a good mix of songs from both Manners and Gossamer, with the crowd singing along during many moments throughout the evening. Though "Hideaway" and "Make Light" were notably missing, there were more than enough high points to carry everyone happily through the night. "Carried Away" was especially fun to hear live, the entire audience shouting out the words as they danced. Judging from the reaction of the crowd, "I'll be Alright" seems to be the big hit off Gossamer. With the same melodic quality as Manners' "Make Light," its perfect pace and flow defy its manic lyrics. Throughout the song, Angelakos spastically lurched around to the upbeat robotic bleeps we've come to expect from the band. It's actually replaced "Make Light" as my favorite Passion Pit song, though I may just be fond of the way Angelakos enunciates the sound "ight," stretching it out like hot taffy.

I was struck by how diminutive the singer seemed from our spot perched high above the stage, yet his presence is still huge enough to carry over the sea of super synths. He bounces around energetically, weaving his way around the seemingly endless array of keyboards. The way he uses his whole body must be exhausting, though he never seems to slow down. If anything, there's more pep in his step than the first time I saw the band play The Ritz Ybor a few years ago; no small feat considering what the man has been through.

The show closed out with "Sleepyhead" as a blast of confetti showered the bouncing audience. Even without the infectious movement of bodies surrounding us, our group was helplessly bouncing around the opera box. After a quick break, the band returned to perform a quick encore of two songs from the first album before graciously thanking the crowd and walking off stage. When we wandered down to go backstage after the show, we were told the band wasn't seeing anyone that evening. Though it was a disappointment, it did make me smile a bit to know Angelakos is setting some boundaries for himself this time around.

Passion Pit has weathered the storm and come out the other side stronger, proving they're a band that is here to stay.


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