Rogue Wave brings ‘Permalight’ to Royale

A review of Rogue Wave at Royale on September 27, 2010

, Staff Writer

Although it has only been open for six months, Royale has already generated a lot of buzz, thanks to being a well thought-out performance space and booking a number of high-profile indie musicians through its doors. Last Monday, Oakland’s Rogue Wave came through, touring in support of their newest album, Permalight, bringing with them a relatively short, but thoroughly satisfying set of music mellow, mid-tempo rock.

The show kicked off with a few cuts from the new album, opening with “Stars And Stripes”, a song that immediately hearkens back to Death Cab For Cutie, with the slightest electronic bent. Zach Rogue’s vocals were smooth and on-point all evening, backed up gentle background support from Pat Spurgeon, on drums, and multi-instrumentalist Graham LeBron. Rogue Wave followed with “Good Morning”, a song that further emphasizes the band’s dynamic vocal harmonies, as well as a fatter bass line than the show’s opener. The tune was warmly-received by the crowd, spurring clapping during its very catchy chorus, and brought a more danceable, jovial atmosphere to the show than one would expect from a band like Rogue Wave. This more upbeat sentiment continued into “Solitary Gun”, which would end the opening “showcase” of new material from the band.

Eventually, the set settled into the quieter, more subdued sound that Rogue Wave are particularly known for. Rogue strummed on an acoustic guitar, crooning delicately on “Christians In Black”, accompanied minimally by the rest of the band, who threw in further vocal inflections and added light touches of texture here and there. It was these quieter moments that particularly stood out from the rest of the set: an intimacy fell over the crowd as the songs grew more introspective, the pop-y dancing that began the set giving way to sways and nodding heads. The band then dropped into a lovely rendition of “Eyes”, perhaps the band’s best-known song. The performance was calm and wistful, and Rogue Wave themselves seemed to love the song as much as most of the audience did.

The end of the set came first with the familiar drum solo that opens “Lake Michigan”, which, if not “Eyes”, is certainly Rogue Wave’s most popular song. The band led the audience in clapping through the song’s introduction before jumping into the first verse. Rogue’s vocals were crisp in their quick delivery of lines, and his guitar picking jangled delightfully. “Michigan” rendered itself in the live setting wonderfully, filling the venue’s space with echoing lyrics and layers of sound from the rest of the band. The set closed with “Harmonium”, from Heaven’s Gate, and, though the song opens the album, it perfectly suits the closing spot, with a familiar and triumphant chord progression, a driving beat, and an ending that is no less than transcendent.

After a brief break, the band returned for an encore of “California”, a more filled-out version than the sparse acoustic one on Descended Like Vultures, and ended the show with “Permalight”, a song that’s a bit different from what one normally associates Rogue Wave with (it almost sounds like Owl City, for better or worse), but still a good choice for an encore.

Rogue Wave is pushing the decade mark as a band, and their time together shows plainly both in the quality of their songwriting and in their live show. Their albums have received progressively less excited reviews with each release, but this is nonetheless a band that has been improving on their sound ever since their initial release; consistency is a hard quality to find these days. The musicianship they’ve developed over the years is easy to see, and there’s no reason the band can’t continue on this path for years to come.

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