Ratatat deliver at House of Blues

A review of Ratatat at the House of Blues on October 5

, Staff Writer

New York-based duo Ratatat have built a reputation for combining a visual spectacle with a party atmosphere during their live shows, and Tuesday’s sold-out performance at the House of Blues was no exception. Flanked by transparent screens and casting massive silhouettes against a constantly changing backdrop, the show emphasized visual imagery, which is a good thing, because without it, Ratatat are just two guys with guitars jamming to a synthesizer.

Ratatat’s studio offerings are nuanced productions that combine ambient electronics with rock sensibilities to create something compelling. Onstage, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast crank the volume to eleven and hammer out one song after another, resulting in a muddle of bass and synth noise. In fact, if not for differing visuals, you could probably listen to half of one song, go out for a smoke, and come back to the second half of the next song without noticing (If HOB allowed reentry, that is). But that didn’t seem to faze the crowd, who bounced, wriggled, and writhed through every track.

Visually, the show brought quite a spectacle without bothering to be compelling or emotionally captive. An endless shower of sparks accompanied opener “Bob Ghandi,” followed by endless creepy parakeets, a marble bust of Beethoven, and footage from the movie Predator (If it bleeds we can kill it). “Mirando” saw the introduction of two ghostly holograms in Colonial-era dress, playing strings and sporting dark sunglasses. Two completely pointless drummers showed up at one point and banged away on two drums that stood front and center, despite the fact that they were hardly used. When the music was at its best, such as during “Grape Juice City,” it seemed like visual onslaught slowed to a trickle, only to come roaring back when the next song started up.

Electronic music may be dominated by mindless, untz-thumping drones, but Ratatat have carved out a niche of their own, layering prog rock with innovative electronic grooves. It’s unfortunate that they seem to have given in to the masses and turned their show into a glorified dance party. As fun as the night was, Ratatat are capable of something much deeper.

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