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Sunday, December 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 32.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Editors and Hot Hot Heat punctuate a quiet night in Madison
Sub zero temps can't keep the Majestic Theatre from hoppin'
The accented tongue of Editors lead singer Tom Smith lurched through the set at the Majestic on Tuesday.
Credit:Emily Denaro

Hot Hot Heat is one of those bands that sounds like, well, everybody else, lately. Stealing from the pile of successful, cassette tape era bands seems to be in vogue or at least it was before the 1950s became the new black.

Hot Hot Heat's new yippie skippy guitarist, Luke Paquin, dodged leading man, Steve Bays and his Afro as the sythn-driven Canadians bobbed around the Majestic Theatre's stage on Tuesday night. Steve Weiss, drummer for April March, once explained the long musician hair phenomenon as a cranium counterweight to all the head banging. In essence, it helped the neck.

If only Hot Hot Heat's ditties and dances similarly balanced out a great set of songs. But it didn't help the duds, or should I say dud, since the entire set sounded like one giant, hyperactive opus. Did I at one point hear The Killers' "Somebody Told Me"? The saving grace of the night was "Bandages," which shook up the set with a dub beat breakdown. Their closer, the popular "Goodnight Goodnight," was a bit fresher, but by the end, I was ready for the headliners.

Editors didn't flee too far from a New Wave sensibility either. Hot Hot Heat's high strung party was traded for a darker intoxication, striking a deeper chord in the crowd. A girl in the audience, possessed by their sound, moved so languidly that she could've charged admission.

The accented tongue of lead singer Tom Smith lurched through the set with the talky singing style popularized by Joy Division (now also favored by Interpol, She Wants Revenge, Bloc Party, and so on). Whilst proclaiming his rhetoric in songs like "Sparks" and "The Racing Rat," Smith super strummed his guitar and otherwise gesticulated like a serial killer, flexing his fingers in a frenzy. His storytelling style was entrancing and drew the eye to him. Oh wait, that was also because he was the only thing lit on the whole damn stage, aside from the three sets of police lights pointed towards the crowd that I am pretty certain gave me a brain aneurysm.

It's too bad more illumination wasn't given to the rest of the band. Had it been Tom Smith and the Editors, I could understand this spotlight spectacle. But drummer Ed Lay was furious, the bassist Russell Leetch was toe tappingly intricate and Chris Urbanowicz's guitar was played so low on the neck the high pitches he coaxed from it brought about visions of bagpipes. I got to see every bead of crystalline sweat fly off Bays' hairdo, so why not let me glimpse one money shot of Editors' entire membership?

Despite the blackout, the sound stayed solid. "Spiders" featured Smith on piano and sounded like what Chris Martin might have churned out had he run red lights in the rain, instead of watched the sky fall from his sofa. "Munich" packed a good wallop and proved that Smith could actually sing albeit a bit like Robert Goulet when he wasn't trying to be so hip.

Despite being in the dark, the band was still tight, succeeding with a concentrated and compressed performance.

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