Temper Trap at the El Rey: Concert Review

Chris Godley
Playing to a sold-out but slightly stiff audience, the spacey Aussie pop-rockers struck the right chords when they doled out the radio hits.

London-by-way-of-Australia indie rockers The Temper Trap brought their spaced-out-pop show to Los Angeles' El Rey Theatre Tuesday for the second sold-out night in a row with a set that included old favorites and several TV-ready new tracks from their forthcoming, eponymous sophomore album (due in June). The band took the stage following a powerful set by local L.A. up-and-comers Papa, entering in pitch black except for some blaring red lights and heavy bass pounding to the audience's giddy applause. 

"We're going to play a few new ones tonight, I hope you don't get bored," said lead singer Dougy Mandagi who later teased the band's upcoming album, which was recorded locally. "There's a little bit of sunshine in there."

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But most of the set seemed born from a land way-out-there, from the band's steadfast pounding rhythms to soaring effected guitar lines and Mandagi's powerful, pitch-perfect voice that ruthlessly hit falsetto melody lines with nothing short of bravery, setting a tone of cosmic proportions layered over deep and solid grooves. Standing and facing the audience, often with his hands behind his back like a choirboy or gesturing emotively with the songs’ highs and lows, Mandagi’s presence was intense but cheery, belting out his vocals with the sort of passion that could rival genre greats like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke or Muse’s Matthew Bellamy. Meanwhile, his band members picked up and put down guitars in exchange for synthesizers throughout the set, staying friendly and engaging without too much banter. By the way they moved, however, Temper Trap's players seemed as if they checked any snobbish rock star cool at customs and instead maneuvered the stage with inviting passion and vigor.

The crowd watched on mesmerized but didn't reciprocate much physical movement. And despite the band’s best efforts, this hardly changed with a few small exceptions of dance eruptions deep in the pit during anthemic songs such as "Love Lost" and at the peak of the souful "Ressurection," which prompted some people to move -- but only a bit. The night’s most rocking moment came during "Drum Song," which evolved into a dark and forceful jam that conjured some liveliness from the audience and heightened intensity as the band rolled into “Science of Fear” and new track “Dreams”. But even this quelled before long, as the crowd watched on pleasantly but mostly stationary.

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The Temper Trap has seen its stature rise in alt-rock world, thanks in large part to commercial synchs, which surely brought many of these fans out Tuesday night. Tickets cost nearly $30 -- high for a typical show at the El Rey -- perhaps excluding a more passionate portion of the band’s fanbase. But, sure enough, by the time The Temper Trap did play its biggest single to date, “Sweet Disposition” -- which has been featured in Chrysler and Diet Coke Commercials, as well as many television shows and the quirky 2009 rom-com 500 Days of Summer -- the audience livened up, proving this is what they had come here for, singing and dancing along to that one song in bliss.

When the band returned onstage for an encore, it was for a single musical goodbye  -- the new tune “Rabbit Hole,” which builds slowly, starting light and sweet before transforming into a blistering ballad and then quickly ending. It was a captivating performance but it seemed the crowd would have preferred “Sweet Disposition” played 12 times over. Hopefully by the next show, and once the new album is released, the audience will be more ready to sing along.

Set List:

Need Your Love
Love Lost
The Sea
Trembling Hands
Drum Song
Science Of Fear
Sweet Disposition

Encore: Rabbit Hole

Twitter: @THRMusic