Last night I saw Ratatat at the Pageant in St. Louis and it was a really excellent show.
I bought the tickets last month while on vacation in the UP of Michigan and the excitement had continued to build for the entire month of August all the way to last night. I usually don't get too excited for concerts like I used to. When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I'd buy tickets in advance and constantly think about the upcoming show. I would be on razors edge by the time the show came around. It was not a great way to go to shows because I felt like I was too amped up when the concert finally happened and, while the shows were usually great, I didn't enjoy the experience as much as I should have. As I've gotten older, I don't get overly excited until I'm at the show. Last night, I found a happy medium between my two selves. I was very excited, but I've learned to temper expectations until after the show when I can really critique it. What had me more excited than normal was the fact that I'd never seen Ratatat before. Most shows I go to now, it's bands that I know will be good, or great. I don't have the time to go check someone out live that I only know a few songs, or have never heard of. I'm getting to old to discover new music live. I prefer to listen to someone on record many times before I commit to seeing them live. Ratatat brought out old feelings in me. I was excited to see a band for the first time. Full disclosure, I've listened to their records a TON and I knew exactly what I was getting into, thus making the decision to go easy. I brought my brother Seth along. He's the one who introduced me to the band and he's closest in age to me, being only four years older than me. What made the anticipation greater for me, Seth goes to a lot of live music, he's seen somewhere in the thousands of live shows, but he'd only seen Ratatat once, seven years ago. He was, for all intents and purposes, as new to them as I was.
Let's get to the show. The opener was one guy that called himself Hot Sugar. We arrived late to the show because, unless it's a double bill, I don't care for openers. They're usually boring and are only on the tour because they're on the same label as the headliner. We walked in during his first song, listened for about 2 minutes and went outside. We re-entered the venue when he was playing his last song, heard about another two minutes and he was off the stage. So, four total minutes of Hot Sugar and that was all I needed to hear to know I didn't care for his music. It was ambient DJ music, I bet if I stayed for his whole 40 minute set, I could've taken a cat nap. But, openers don't really matter, let's get to Ratatat. Their set started with a big projection screen that had Ratatat written in big block letters. The music playing sounded like something out of Star Wars and the block letters were shooting off fireworks. The band finally emerged and for an hour and a half, they crushed. Their set ran the gammit of their albums. They played songs off of all their albums. They opened with "Pricks of Brightness" off their new album "Magnifique". It was an awesome way to start the show. The lead guitarist shredded and his band member played a really heavy, chest thumping bass line. The set only got better from there. Other tracks off "Magnifique" included an excellent version of their six and a half minute epic "Nightclub Amnesia". They played the slower, what I call their "Mario Bros" water level song, "Magnifique". They played their single "Cream on Chrome" and my favorite song off the new album, "Abrasive". It was great to hear these songs since they're so fresh in my head. But, as I said earlier, they played songs off all their albums. Other standouts were, "Wildcat", "Shempi" and "Loud Pipes". "Loud Pipes" was pretty great. They played a bit of guitar, but both members of the band ditched their guitars for a couple minutes and banged away on the drum that each had set up in front of them. The same can be said for "Shempi". Both songs have guitar in them, but they focus more on the drums and it was a nice change of pace from the majority of the show. "Wildcat" is a classic Ratatat song. When you hear the cat's growl, you know it's on. That song is incredible live. What I was happily surprised by, they played "Seventeen Years". It was their first of two encore songs. This was the song that introduced me to Ratatat. I didn't know that "electronica" music could be guitar driven, but "Seventeen Years" proved me wrong. It was AWESOME live. I was so, so happy to hear this song last night. It's my favorite Ratatat song and it's always nice when a band you like plays your favorite song at a live show.
The songs were great, but the show going on behind them was just as cool. They had a big projector behind them and two flat screens on the side of the stage. Random images were shown on these devices throughout the show. We saw lions, birds, old sculptures and an eight armed running baby. The lead guitarist would stand in front of the projector screen when it was white and we got to see his shadow throwing down on guitar. It was pretty great. The light show was awesome too. They had a ton of reflective lights and pulsing white and orange lights throughout their set. The light show we got during "Nightclub Amnesia" was exceptional. I felt like I was in a disco in the 70's, but in a good way. The two guys in the band also provided me enjoyment. They each stood, at various moments, with their legs spread about a foot apart and proceeded to play their instruments phenomenally. My only gripe with the concert had to do with the venue. I love the Pageant, but the balcony was closed and the 21 and over area was packed. When we were in that area, I felt like a sardine in a can. It was very uncomfortable. Thankfully, Seth suggested we move to the under 21 section, since neither of us were drinking, and it was our best decision of the night. No gripes with Ratatat, just with the choices the venue made.
This was an excellent show and I'm extremely happy I got to see Ratatat live. They were on my concert bucket list and I can now cross them off. I will see them any other time they come to St. Louis. They were that great. So, if Ratatat comes anywhere close to you and you're a fan, see them.
It's well worth your money.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the co-host of the X Millennial Man podcast. If you come to St. Louis to play a show, Ty will be there in the under 21 section to do a review. Follow him on twitter @tykulik.