The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - live in Bloomington (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

live in Bloomington (2011)

live show

The rain that has been pummeling us for weeks decided to let up briefly on Friday, April 29, so the wife and I could walk over to Rhino's All-Ages Club to check out one of our favorite bands to pop up in recent years, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, brought to town by the always awesome Spirit of '68 Productions.

Openers were Cincinnati's Weakness. The band's music was dissonant and messy; their appeal based mostly on their energy. The singer was much more concerned with stumbling around and ranting incomprehensibly between songs than providing any sort of lyrical or melodic content. They were entertaining enough visually, but musically I need more substance.

Next was Twin Shadow, a band a friend had been recommending to me for a while. From what little I had heard prior to the show, I was prepared for a mid-tempo, mopey set of Cure-ish tunes. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the dancey, joyous chunk of '80s British-influenced rock, powered by George Lewis Jr.'s voice and personality. I've read that their debut album, Forget, was exclusively Lewis' work, but all I know is that here, fleshed out with the full band, it sounded perfect. The live drums pumped up the tempos a bit and smooth synth pads rightfully dominated the mix. Lewis' interaction with the crowd between songs was very positive and he applauded the Bloomington crowd for dancing, which he joked was "outlawed in Brooklyn." Highlights of the set included single "Castles in the Snow", "I Can't Wait" and the one slow number they capped off the set with, "Forget".

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart tore into their set with a string of their best tunes from both their self-titled debut (my favorite "This Love Is Fucking Right!") and the recently released Belong (single "Heart in Your Heartbreak"), without much to-do in between. The band sounded tight, with a thicker guitar sound thanks to who I can only assume is pseudo-member Christoph Hochheim, who plays on the new album but is absent from band photos and was relegated to far stage left and out of the stage lights for the show. The added guitar helped the band recreate the first album's textural layers and the new album's power and lead lines. However, the sound was not perfect–despite the band bringing their own soundman–as Peggy Wang's vocals and keys were almost entirely inaudible. It was especially detrimental on a song like "The Body", where the keys carry the melody and the dance feel. Thankfully, the problem was fixed in time for "My Terrible Friend", a synth-heavy song. Singer/guitarist Kip Berman struggled with some pitch issues, especially evident on "A Teenager in Love" when the guitars lay back in the verses. It crept up periodically but was not a huge detriment to the set.

The band played about equal parts from both albums, but left out one of my favorites from the new disc, "Even in Dreams", and didn't play anything from the Higher Than the Stars EP. In the second half of the set the band became more chatty, with Berman dropping local references like the pros claiming Breaking Away as one of his favorite movies and Wang complimenting the venue, saying "every venue should have ping-pong and caramel corn." Damn straight. After closing with "Strange", the band was out again quickly for an encore. For a band that loves releasing B-sides, they finally played one, "Side Ponytail", which they claimed to have not played in three years.

Technicalities aside, I was quite satisfied with my first live viewing of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and was intrigued by Twin Shadow.

Set list:

  1. Belong
  2. This Love Is Fucking Right!
  3. A Teenager in Love
  4. Heart in Your Heartbreak
  5. The Body
  6. Heaven's Gonna Happen Now
  7. Stay Alive
  8. My Terrible Friend
  9. Come Saturday
  10. Young Adult Friction
  11. Strange
  12. Side Ponytail
  13. Everything with You