Concert Review: Royal Teeth

Royal Teeth opened in Chicago with the nostalgia laced pop melody ‘Hold Me.’ For the 75 minutes following the first pluck of the ukulele and echoing oohs of female lead singer, Nora Patterson, the crowd is pulled into their pretty world, one as innocently buoyant as falling in love in the fourth grade.

The two lead singers produce a tightly wound harmony, with Gary Larsen jumping around, flooding the air with balloons, launching confetti and wailing passionately into the microphone. Nora complements Gary perfectly with her soulful voice and composed demeanor. Her quietly dominating presence reveals herself as the secret leader of this band of hyperactive multi-talented musicians. She plays the xylophone, tambourine, and other times pounds a drum in sync with Larsen whose identical drum is aligned with hers along the edge of the stage. Gary switches off between drum, guitar and lead vocals, all the while rolling on the floor, jumping up and down and physically exerting his complete internal euphoria. A few steps back, keyboardist Andrew Poe delivers the cleverly composed sonic strokes that drive this excellent branch of pop music. Alongside Poe are bassist Joshua Wells, and drummer Josh Hefner. The diverse instruments, voices and melodies, male-female harmonies, strong beats and hyper performance make the room, as their album title foreshadows, truly glow.

After several original songs, the band further demonstrates their musical ability to illuminate the atmosphere with a cover of Jose Gonzalez’s acoustic ballad ‘Heartbeats.’ Nora’s vocals dominate, each softly soulful line reverberating through the venue with a warmth that reaches the soul. But she doesn’t actually steal the show for another half hour when Royal Teeth debuts a new song called ‘Rich.’ For the entire 3 minutes of the song, Nora spins an aura of confidence and control, casting audience members under her spell and pulling the crowd together. Just as importantly, however, is the role that each character in the band plays in transforming this low-lit Chicago bar into a roaring zoo. The band does everything to involve the audience, from divvying up song lyrics between fans and band members, to simply joining the crowd mid-perfomance. Gary abandons his spot in front of the microphone and jumps into the crowd, playing his drum, while fans circle and scream around him, and the stage furthers the uproar engaging their bodies in the musical performance.

The six piece band’s modern, pop instrumentals resonate throughout the venue and in too short a time, Gary has returned to the stage, balloons popped, confetti lifeless beneath the feet of flying audience members— it is time for the last song. Still, the ‘oohs’ of Royal’s most catchy and famous song ‘Wild,’ has the crowd jumping and singing at levels higher and louder than they’ve been the whole night. As Gary says, “I need you guys to step closer for this one,” young dancing couples, shoulder-shaking college grads, and even one head-bopping, suit wearing middle aged man, gravitate towards the foot of the stage. In just a little over an hour, Royal Teeth has effectively turned a bunch of yuppies back into their gleeful five year old selves.

Written by Libby Hoffman and Evan Fried