The members of Portland folk-pop group Blind Pilot are not big talkers. The band goes on stage, blows your mind, thanks you for your attendance, and then leaves. And then maybe they come back, twice if you’re the crowd at Webster Hall last night, playing encores even after the house lights had come back up. “We are not a ‘two encore’ kind of band,” singer Israel Nebeker said sheepishly from behind his harmonium. “This may be our first, ever.”
But before any of those encores came to be, the opener Dan Mangan took the stage. The bearded, acoustic guitar-toting Canadian charmed the audience with his stunning vocals, guitar skills, and inter-song banter. His style is some sort of weird Jeff Buckley-Bon Iver combo that is truly riveting live, though some of his more enthusiastic fans were in the balcony bellowing ”Robots!” throughout each song. Magnan finally appeased his fans when he closed out his set with the beloved “Robots,” turning it into a sing-song while he wandered through the audience.
Satisfied for the moment, the crowd waited patiently for the six person indie-folk ensemble Blind Pilot to gather and arrange its cornucopia of instruments, and as the band walked on stage, each member seemed genuinely surprised at the explosive response from the audience. The group mostly played tracks from 2011’s We Are The Tide with a few from 2009’s 3 Rounds And A Sound thrown in for good measure. There was an exorbitant amount of guitar switching and tuning, almost to the point of OCD on the part of Nebeker, but it’s tough to fault him because everything sounded so perfect. The title track ”We Are the Tide” rounded out the set and it was clearly the song everyone had been waiting for. The floor shook as the crowd stomped and jumped in excitement, just waiting for the upbeat chorus to come so they could really get going.
The two encores slowed things down a bit, maybe a bit too much for the over-zealous crowd looking for any chance to yell praise. Never has a xylophone solo been applauded so vigorously. “There’s actually a bit more to this song,” said Nebeker of the harmonium ballad “New York,” trying to calm the crowd down enough to finish the song properly. One quick bow and they were off.