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Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the Bluebird Theater (Denver, CO) – July 31, 2015

You know when you’re waiting for a performer to return for an encore and everybody is cheering, and then there this slight lull in the cheers until someone starts stomping their feet and amps the entire crowd back up to their original level?

Yeah, that didn’t happen at Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s show Friday night in Denver. From the moment Ruban Nielson and his three bandmates left the stage to the moment they returned for an encore, the audience maintained their deafening decibel without fail. There are excited audiences, and then there are excited audiences. The Bluebird was packed with the latter, having sold out with just hours to spare.

And boy, they were excited. As an artist, it has to be one hell of a confidence boost when your audience can sing every word to songs from the album you released just over two months ago (Multi-Love, in this case). UMO played said album to a crowd that couldn’t get enough, whooping at the opening notes of “Like Acid Rain” and swaying in time to the title track. People reached out to Neilson for high fives and handshakes, burying him in a barrage of cheers, hugs and selfies when he ventured onto the floor during “Stage or Screen”.


That UMO were spotlighting their music’s jazzy and R&B elements made the sheer strength and volume of the crowd response all the more striking. Our current musical landscape has relegated all non-Amy Winehouse jazz to the territory of arcane and antiquated obsession fixated on by a particular brand of music snob, no country for young men or women. And yet here they all were, clapping with genuine enthusiasm following keys player Quincy McCrary’s jazz piano break.

Here they all were indeed, losing their freaking minds to “Ur Life One Night” and tossing sheets of Mylar over their heads and waving their arms to “So Good at Being In Trouble”. Here the all were, heating up the Bluebird to the point where the security guards were wiping their foreheads with rags and bassist Jake Portrait was fanning himself on stage. Here the all were, forgiving Neilson for his occasional vocal missteps and a dodgy microphone without a second thought. Here they all were.

And as for that previously mentioned encore, UMO kicked it off with “Necessary Evil”, a slow and plodding ballad by absolutely no one’s standards but still too mellow to reach the crowd’s heights. It took UMO jamming the song out and throwing in a guitar solo to reach their crowd’s level, which they then maintained with a massively danceable rendition of “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.” Neilson, as unassuming a frontman as they come, hit superstar status halfway through the set and finished somewhere in the rock (and jazz?) god ballpark.

“Thank you so much, Denver. We love you,” he said as “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” wound to a close. Consider the feeling mutual.


Like Acid Rain
From The Sun
How Can U Love Me
Thought Ballune
The World Is Crowded
So Good At Being In Trouble
Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)
Stage or Screen
Ffunny Ffrends

Necessary Evil
Can’t Keep Checking My Phone

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Elle is a writer and art student based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter: @ellecoxon


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