Number 20 in this publication’s 101 Secrets to Indie Rock success is “Get a live drummer.” There are very few artists out there who can pull off the me-and-a-laptop schtick and actually make it work, but Dev Hynes is one of them, and he had Saturday night’s sold-out Glasslands crowd in his pocket with just a guitar and backing tracks. That and a load of charisma.
It also helps that Blood Orange is the most natural musical fit yet for Hynes, much more than the folk rock he made as Lightspeed Champion or the chaos of his early aughts band Test Icicles. Songs like “S’cooled” and “Sutphin Boulevard” have a slinky ’80s cool to them and are real crowd-pleasers. That ’80s vibe was echoed with projected clips of Grease 2, Bryan Ferry, the vogue-heavy video for Malcolm McLaren’s “Waltz Darling” (plus a little Zabriskie Point pyrotechnics for good measure) that provided something else to look at, if you needed that.
Hynes also knows how to work a crowd—and how to play in the middle of one. In a leather jacket and that ever-present Knicks hat, Hynes spent almost as much time off the stage as on, singing and soloing (dude can hammer-on like Eddie Van Halen) amongst the Dev-otees. Keith Murray of We Are Scientists came up to play guitar on “Forget It” but otherwise it Hynes kept it simple and solo and short, with an eight-or-so song set, due in part to a new laptop. “These are the only songs I have on here,” he confessed to audience disapproval. “I think it’s too indulgent to do more guitar solos.” (Your thinking is correct.)
Blood Orange next show is slightly larger than Glasslands—opening for Florence and the Machine at Radio City Music Hall in May. Watching him lean out with his mic stand over the crowd Saturday night, he’s got the personality to play to the big rooms. But maybe a drummer (and a bassist) wouldn’t hurt.