From the moment alt-rockers Silversun Pickups took the stage at the State Theatre on Thursday night it felt like a big-time rock show. The crowd sprang to its feet as the quartet appeared in front of a blue spot light setup that vaguely resembled a graveyard, never returning to its seats for the duration of the 90-minute set.
Mirroring their three albums, the dramatic L.A.-based band's live show was a tug of war between radio head bangers and sappy breakup rock -- a crushing combo that could incite mosh pits as easily as tears. On stage, nasally breathy frontman Brian Aubert seems very aware of his movements, hunching his shoulders and emphatically striking his guitar during woozy opener "Skin Graph," the first track off this year's "Neck of the Woods" LP. A massively dynamic version of "The Royal Me" followed before a downshift into the calmer but forceful "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)."
Despite having a fill-in for bassist Nikki Monninger, who recently dropped off the tour as she is expecting twins, Silversun Pickups didn't seem to miss an atmospherically synthy beat, an accomplishment made equally impressive by the fact that it sounded like they had a wild off night with opener School of Seven Bells watching Built to Spill at First Avenue the previous evening. Aubert seemed to enjoy the down time in the Twin Cities, heaping praise on our towns and specifically Pizza Luce. (Oh, Brian, I bet you say that about every city's popular pizzerias.) Regardless, he had the crowd blushing. "So what if it's cold? Pussies!" he jeered imaginary 'Sota detractors.
Moody renditions of "Panic Switch" and "Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)" nicely set the table for "Lazy Eye," the final song before the encore, which gently sidled in before exploding into a guitar shrieking, stomping crescendo -- easily the highlight of the show.
The three-song encore led with "Busy Bees" and the bass-buoyant "Out of Breath," when Aubert's histrionics peaked with strategically steely glances and well-timed shoulder twitches, before a bashing finale of "Well Thought Out Twinkles." A little rock 'n' roll hamming works with Silversun Pickups' rafter-scraping sounds and Aubert's flare-levels were appropriate for his tender rousers.
I missed openers Atlas Genius and some of School of Seven Bells' set, but the pop-savvy, slightly gothic electro-rockers were well-received, despite singer Alejandra Deheza contending with Benjamin Curtis' guitar in the mix.