Live Review: Miike Snow and Mark Ronson at the Wiltern
Close to an hour into Miike Snow's headlining set at a sold-out Wiltern on Friday night, something went wrong. It might have been a blown fuse, a busted MIDI apparatus or something even more esoteric. But for about 20 minutes, the glitch sent the experimental electropop trio offstage while a team frantically poked at their synthesizer rig.
A fog machine idly sputtered in the blue-lit background until they finally solved the problem. “This is like when you bring somebody home to finally make love, and you realize at the last minute that you don't have a condom,” singer Andrew Wyatt joked to an audibly frustrated crowd.
Mechanical failure silences artists all the time, and Miike Snow's previous 45 minutes of witchy Nordic disco were entrancing. But it underscored how completely alien the idea of accidents is to today's pop audience. Pitch-correcting software, beat quantizing and pop radio's abdication of organic instruments have altered modern ears to make mistakes sound ever more mistaken.
Ronson's fleshed-out onstage vision counts rapper Spank Rock, ex-Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall and Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald as its co-frontpeople, while Ronson and Business Intl. stick to synths and guitars. The traveling-circus quality of his set was endearing, but it misdirected from some unexpectedly average songwriting.
“You Gave Me Nothing” and “The Night Last Night” had a Pet Shop Boys bounce and Smiths-y swoon, respectively, but every time the stunning Dougall took the mike, it was hard to shake the sense that a whole set of her supported by Ronson, rather than the reverse, might be more convincing.
Snow, on the other hand, made for a more natural producer-artist transition. As Bloodshy & Avant, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg do their best work with blank-voiced ciphers such as Spears or Kylie Minogue, and push their synthetic alchemy to the front.
Wyatt's a perfect fit for this project — his falsetto is true and his ear for chilly, romantic melodies unerring — yet the band's penchant for creeping fog (both sonic and literal) keeps the mystery intact. The piano ballad “Sylvia” and an unlikely cover of Vampire Weekend's “The Kids Don't Stand a Chance” had Coldplay's ethereal reach. “A Horse Is Not a Home” and “Black & Blue” each paired the wounded soul of house music with modern electro samurai skills.
Maybe that's why the technical glitch felt like a real letdown. Miike Snow is so good at smoke and mirrors that no one wants to see the curtain pulled back. There was something validating in being reminded that real people made this music. But such are our new, unfortunate expectations for musicians, politicians and anyone micromanaging a Facebook profile today: Anything less than perfection feels wrong.
-- August Brown
Top photo: From left, Pontus Winnberg, Andrew Wyatt and Christian Karlsson of Miike Snow. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: Mark Ronson. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times