Concert review: Passion Pit at UIC Pavilion

Michael Angelakos is pretty business-like as arena-pop singers go, dispensing with the small talk. Instead, he’d rather pour his energies into leading massive, musical group-therapy sessions -- at times, that’s exactly what Passion Pit’s performance Friday at the packed UIC Pavilion felt like.

“We’re all in this together,” Angelakos said as the bubble machines went into overdrive, the house lights went up and a legion of pumping fists stretched all the way to the balcony for “Take a Walk.” As triumphant as the moment was, Angelakos was actually singing about a couple struggling to pay the rent and keep their marriage intact.

Double-edged songs are Passion Pit’s specialty. “I’ll be Alright” delivered a typically huge chorus with big, stuttering accents, the musical equivalent of strobe lights exploding. Stack it next to a Nicki Minaj or Rihanna song on the radio and it fits right in, bravado blasted from the mountain-tops.

But beneath the surface celebration, the song’s narrator is sinking fast: “Drink a gin and take a couple of my pills/And my parade will give you chills/Oh honey don’t give me up/I know we've had enough.”

“The Reeling” channeled hip-hop strut with rave-tastic glow sticks waving behind every line. Yet the gaudiness was just a disguise. “Well how I loathe all this obscenity/Is this the way my life has got to be?” Angelakos sang.

The characters in many Passion Pit songs are struggling to stay above water, much like the singer himself, who has spoken openly about his struggles with alcoholism and bipolar disorder. And yet, his narrators aren’t necessarily brooding, they’re reaching out, trying to make sense of the kindness they’ve been given in spite of their misbehavior: an apology in “Carried Away,” a desperate excuse in “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy,” the concern for a friend who tries to tamp down his excesses in “Constant Conversations.”

The latter suggested an updated version of a Chi-Lites soul ballad, with Angelakos’ multitracked harmonies cushioning his delicate, falsetto lead, even as he sang of drinking his life away.

What keeps it all from dissolving into whiny self-pity is that many of Passion Pit’s songs read like emails or phone calls to a friend, a lover, somebody who actually cares. They’re one-sided conversations in search of answers. In concert, the audience gets to give its response.

No wonder Angelakos was skipping from side to side of the stage, pointing the microphone into the crowd as chorus after chorus came roaring back at him. Passion Pit’s music is dense and detailed, and in concert it added weight with hard-hitting drums supporting as many as three keyboardists. The synthesizers normally occupy the top part of the mix, but Angelakos’ falsetto went higher still, often supported by munchkin-like backing vocals.

The music was precisely executed, but at times was almost too busy, too frantic, with similar high-pitched dynamics. A few acoustic breathers would’ve been welcome, just for a change of pace. But Angelakos was in no mood to slow the tempo or chew on the lyrics too much. He was trying to banish the turmoil with sing-alongs, and the audience was more than ready to oblige him.

Passion Pit set list Friday at UIC Pavilion:

1 I'll be Alright

2 The Reeling

3 Carried Away

4 Moth's Wings

5 Love is Greed

6 It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy

7 American Blood

8 To Kingdom Come

9 Constant Conversations

10 Take a Walk

11 Cry Like a Ghost

12 Eyes as Candles

13 Make Light

14 Mirrored Sea

15 Sleepyhead


16 Little Secrets

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The cliché that colors every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...