Show Review: The Album Leaf at Great American Music Hall, 2/12/10

by Kara Murphy on February 16, 2010

The Album Leaf performed to a sold-out crowd in San Francisco on Friday, February 12th.

There’s something unmistakably unique about the music created by San Diego-based multi-instrumentalist Jimmy LaValle. It penetrates your soul and lingers long after you’ve stopped listening to the electronically-tinged indie rock melodies that reel you in with inviting, ambient choruses. I got hooked after discovering “The Light” on The Hype Machine from their 2006 breakthrough masterpiece, Into the Blue, a year back.

While Macworld after-parties were the main attraction for many on the evening of Friday, February 12th, I gladly skipped them in favor of checking out the group live for the first time ever at San Francisco’s legendary venue, The Great American Music Hall. Sea Wolf was one of the opening acts and the audience, while already packed into the sold-out venue, seemed distracted and buzzed excitedly over the music about forthcoming weekend plans.

That all changed soon enough. A hush fell over the room as the group took the stage accompanied by the marvelous, San Francisco-based Magik*Magik String Quartet (notably the official studio orchestra of Tiny Telephone founded in 1997 by John Vanderslice), bringing the total number of performers onstage to eleven for the evening.

Touring in support of A Chorus of Storytellers, their fifth full-length album and third effort for Sub Pop Records, they opened up with more recognizable tracks including “Stand Still” and “There is a Wind” – both accented by a backdrop screen displaying clouds looming over a darkened stage subtly lit up with several multi-hued LED strips. A mood of intimacy was established and the audience remained mesmerized throughout the remainder of the set.

Of course, after the final song was announced, the crowd refused to budge at its completion and the group immediately forged ahead into the encore, which contained the highlight for the evening, the song “Red Eye.” You would be hard-pressed to find a more exemplary demonstration of the concept of the Magik*Magik String Quartet than this song. The ensemble was created by Minna Choi with the intention of facilitating a collaborative environment between classical and independent rock musicians.  And during this second-to-last song of the night, the string section pulsed rhythmically in unison with the two keyboardists and the rest of the band, creating a gorgeous, not to mention hypnotic, rendition of the song.

The Album Leaf are a marvel to behold. If you have yet to see them live, I highly recommend you find out when they’re coming your way in the near future. It is truly an experience not to be missed.

For the entire set of full-size pictures, please check out my personal Flickr.

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