Freelance Whales – Webster Hall – 11/7/12


Better Than: Being outside in all that snow.

Ironic is the only way to describe a situation where a band whose most recent album is named Diluvia has a show postponed while the city began its own post-diluvia recovery efforts. Freelance Whales, however, more than made up for the canceled date from last Thursday by playing a gorgeous show to a receptive, enthusiastic crowd at Webster Hall last night — in the middle of a Nor’easter.

But the seasons are something the band embraces, with weather themes making appearances in album titles (their first album is aptly called Weathervanes) and dripping throughout the lyrics, like the icy and haunting “Winter Seeds.” It seems only fitting that this particular band would have to conquer nature in its physical form, and Freelance Whales came prepared to fight.

After energetic performances from openers Conveyor and Geographer, “Aeolus,” the first track off of Diluvia, began a strong set list well-versed in balancing old, familiar tracks with the new while breathing life into a venue that wasn’t much warmer inside than it had been outside. Similar to the skill displayed on their albums, Freelance Whales is tactful in seamlessly connecting one song into the next to create a fluid, ethereal sound. When “Land Features” began, it was difficult to tell when “Aeolus” had discretely ended.

Jumping between tracks from the first and second album, the band proved how well all of their music meshes together. While the newest album shows musical growth, it stays rooted in the ambient dreaminess of their debut. The musicians mesh in a similar way. In between songs, the bandmates would switch spots and instruments like the well-oiled machine they are as a whole. Yet there is nothing mechanical about their performance; there’s a sense of friendliness and warmth that the band seems to exude when they’re on stage, and the audience’s energy proved that the feelings are mutual.

While tracks like “Spitting Image,” “Hannah,” and “Locked Out” were frantic bursts of dance-y air-pop, the most memorable moments throughout the concert came through during the more haunting pieces. Eery, almost stripped down songs that make full use of intermingling vocals by the band members while lead singer Judah Dadone lights the way were the backbone of their set. “Broken Horse” and “DNA Bank,” both during the encore and separated by the very fun “Starring,” are slowed down, whimsical gems that prove just how fantastic these musicians are.

As they request to be told in the song “Generator (Second Floor),” Freelance Whales are equal parts “stunning and cadaverous.” Their music, while filled to the brim by a unique selection of instruments and layered vocals, create a singular thread as fluid as the transitions between tracks and their movements on stage give an almost skeletal feel. In the end, the airiness of their sound never feels empty, and that’s what makes Freelance Whales absolutely stunning.

Critical Bias: The band’s name may or may not have been the inspiration for my Halloween costume…

Overheard: “Are you on iTunes?!” – inquired by a most likely inebriated audience member during the set for openers Geographer

Random Notebook Dump: Doris Cellar should sing lead on more songs and be my personal stylist.

Set List:
Land Features
Generator (Second Floor)
Follow Through
Spitting Image
Generator (First Floor)
Red Star
Locked Out
Winter Seeds
Dig Into Waves
Emergence Exit
Broken Horse
DNA Bank

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