To “play dead” is to lie motionless, and act defeated while waiting for the chance to strike. How very fitting for MUTEMATH, fresh off of their 5th LP release of the same name, to embark on a tour that is the living, breathing embodiment of the term. Having lost bassist Roy Mitchell-Cardenas as a touring member of the band, and most recently, Darren King’s departure from the band entirely, the cards were stacked against front man Paul Meany to call it quits. With Jonathan Allen settling into bass duties, and David “Hutch” Hutchison filling enormously daunting shoes on drums, the live show the foursome has managed to assemble in such a short amount of time was nothing short of astounding.
Hoards of loyal MUTEMATH fans lined up outside the brick walls of Brooklyn Steel, eager to hear selections from their latest release, and hear how the new members put their spin on old favorites from years past. Openers ROMES and Colony House filled out their set times wonderfully, providing two of the absolute best and undeniably entertaining opening sets I’ve seen in a long while. The “Ireland meets Toronto” four-piece ROMES’ sound was lively, and playful – a cheerful contrast against the moodiness of their leather jackets and Doc Marten boots. Lead singer Jacob Alexander played to the audience at every turn, dancing back and forth across the stage, and interacting with each of his band mates throughout their all too short time onstage. Colony House also wowed the audience with an effortlessly infectious set. Upbeat and incredibly charming, the Tennessee based four-piece expertly navigated from the raucous “You & I “ to the wonderfully tender acoustic rendition of “Moving Forward” leaving the audience wanting more.
Coming off such a happy high from the openers into MUTEMATH dimming the lights and projecting images of a fist and soldiers during their first song “War,” the band definitely wanted everyone to know they did not come to play dead, they came to strike and level the entire place. If the band as describes the sound of Play Dead as removing the guardrails & taking a no holds barred approach to songwriting and production, this tour is the complete embodiment of that same sentiment.
The entirety of MUTEMATH’s set was a full on assault on the senses. There was ample fog, strobes and the projected imagery ranged from star fields, galaxies, abstract swirly artwork, city lights and skylines, colorful wormholes and even Paul’s grandfather, lovingly known as Papa G made an appearance right at the end of “Hit Parade” to deliver his lines on the record. Halfway through the first song, Meany launched himself off the top of his keyboard, wielding his keytar like a madman. Hutch beat his kit into full submission, laying any fears of his ability to deliver to rest. Out of the corner of my eye Todd would go from ripping on his guitar one minute, to singing harmonies the next, and then shuffle over to his keyboard and add so many flourishes that add so much to the sound. Last but certainly not least, Jonathan, who by the way looks like he’s having the most fun up there out of anyone, bouncing up and down while hammering out bass lines, and punching in various melodies on pads/computer. I felt like I didn’t know where I should look next; it was organized chaos in the best way. Sometimes I just closed my eyes, and let the music take over.
The setlist was a fine-tuned tribute that spanned the band’s entire catalog. Normally this is expected, but considering Hutch had a mere 3 weeks to learn the music, I was more than impressed with the level of musicianship displayed. Having spent the last 15 years as a paramedic in the New Orleans area, that calm under pressure is evident, and welcomed – either in learning and improvising music on the fly (which he said they do every night) or tackling a song like “Reset,” which was, by all means a full on “Darren song.” The fact that this song was included makes me respect Hutch and the band all the more. I am enjoying the fact that Hutch is making the music his own instead of trying to recreate Darren’s sound. It’s adding freshness to songs I’ve heard countless times in the past that I can appreciate.
There were multiple highlights throughout the night, but a few that stick out are definitely Paul’s 6 year old daughter, Amelia, coming out to steal the show with her dance moves during “Pixie Oaks,” Paul’s absolutely badass keyboard solo on “Tell Your Heart Heads Up,” the energy of the crowd overflowing during “Spotlight,” the Police-esque breakdown in the middle of “Noticed,” the light up mattress ride that was dedicated to their stage tech, Daniel Thigpenn, for his birthday, and finally, the moment that left me beaming with pride was when the band played my favorite song on the album “Achilles Heel.” Now, long time fans of the band knew that Paul used to be in a band called Earthsuit, and in that band he apparently used to rap. I haven’t listened to much of the Earthsuit stuff or watched many videos so I just couldn’t imagine this… until this new song came to fruition… and goodness gracious Paul delivered those bars like he was born and raised here. My heart swelled watching the Brooklyn crowd waving their hands in the air, bobbing along with the bass lines.
After witnessing a show of this caliber, from artists this incredibly talented, it’s difficult to wrap my head around the fact that the future of MUTEMATH is still very uncertain. In a recent interview, Paul mentioned he “couldn’t imagine making another MUTEMATH record without Darren,” but I want to believe that the MUTEMATH sound is something that isn’t dependent on just one or two people. The past records have all been collaborative efforts, and behind the release of a hands down masterpiece like Play Dead, that everyone had input in without the constraints of outside producers, engineers, or record label execs, from what I witnessed in that room that night and from talking to fans is that they absolutely want MUTEMATH to continue. The stars aligned themselves perfectly for Jonathan and Hutch to both be available at the right time for this tour, and to fit in so seamlessly. I am also hoping they’ll decide to join the band full time. Who knows, this very well may be the next chapter for MUTEMATH, and I am excited about the possibilities these changes may reveal.
Article: Lesley Keller