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May 23, 2009

Nico Muhly and Son Lux

It’s not everyday that a patron has the pleasure of watching a music concert at Minneapolis’ Southern Theater. Occasionally a dance company will perform with live musicians but that experience is completely different. I’m talking about sitting down in seat H3, drink in hand (complementary drinks provided by Vita.mn) and being lulled to a tranquil environment created by sound.

The bill was split between Son Lux and Nico Muhly, both young talented musicians from New York. Last year, Muhly performed as part of the theater’s Wordless Music Series. This show marked Son Lux’s Southern debut.

Son Lux, composer/collaborator/remixer Ryan Lott, opened the concert. His set included a grand piano and a table. While the physical set was minimal, his “set” was not. Live, 3D, digital visuals created by Joshue Ott were projected on the theater’s back wall. A nicely edited dance film played during one of Lux’s songs. And four dancers performed alongside Lux during two songs.

As a dancer, I found myself paying attention to the dancers whenever they were onstage. While the technique of the dancers were top-notch, that’s really the only compliment I can give them. The choreography was uncreative and too literal which I strongly dislike when dances are paired with lyrics. The quality of touch between the dancers was phony; skin level at best. However, I must give props to dancer Brittany Fridenstine. When we looked out into the audience or looked at her partner, she actually saw something. I appreciate it when dancers connect to their surroundings.

As for Lux’s music, it was pretty good, not great, but good. The sounds he produced were simple but wonderfully tragic. It’s the kind of music you would listen to after a depressing day, although my reading may be colored by the songs’ lyrics. “What if he/she loved me?” and other such lines made me think, “What has happened in this young man’s life?” In my opinion, Lux should do-away with lyrics or find himself a lyricist.

Nico Muhly closed the show. Muhly performed at the theater once before as part of the Wordless Music Series but I was not able to catch his set. I was pleased when I learned he would be coming back for this show.

Like Lux, Muhly’s set was simple: grand piano, table for his laptop, a chair and music stand for violist Nadia Sirota. From the first note Muhly played I perked up in my seat and thought, “This is going to be great!”

The sounds he produced were truly a mix of classical music and indie pop rock. Several songs were written for friends, including fellow performer Sirota who by the way was a force in her own right. One song was even written for the film “The Reader.” This kid, being only in his late 20s, has talent coming out of his ears.

Muhly’s compositions not only showcased that he is a master songwriter, but they also showed his and Sirota’s talent as performers. Being a physical performer I am always amazed at the dances musicians create when they play stationary instruments. Muhly and Sirota played with their entire body, not just their fingers. For me, this proved their brilliance as performers.

"The hip concert of the season unites two young New Yorkers whose experimental blend of pop and classical music has the art world swooning,” wrote Minnesota Monthly. I admit that I swooned for Muhly and Sirota, however I did not for Lux.