If nothing else, the members of Tanlines play to their own strengths. The Brooklyn duo played a homecoming of sorts last night at Webster Hall, and they didn’t stray too far from what makes them crowd pleasers: sparse, self-aware banter (from only one member; more on this in a bit), crystal clear reproductions of their studio sound, and a whole lot of dancing. It was a set that lasted a bit over an hour but felt like 20 minutes. In that way, it is reminiscent of their 2012 release, Mixed Emotions, from where they grabbed most of their set list: breezy, efficient, and a hell of a lot of fun.
In a move that seems odd for a contemporary band, singer Eric Emm takes a step back on stage, ceding all banter (minus nine words: “Hey, what’s up? I don’t talk too much.”) to charismatic bandmate (and the voice behind the hilarious @tanlines Twitter account), Jesse Cohen. Last night, Cohen was nervous, charming, and honest; he was a Tanlines song come to life. He quickly won over the crowd with a comment about walking to Veselka before the show, before taking a literal step back when the lights shone on the packed venue. “This is my favorite part, talking with and seeing all of you. I’m sure it’s your favorite too!” A quick laugh, a knowing shoulder shrug, and they were back to the music.
The music turned out to be pretty much every highlight from Mixed Emotions, minus the Beach Boys-inspired chorus of “Lost Somewhere.” Early on, they hit the energetic “Green Grass,” moving a crowd that had been politely shuffling along through the first parts of the set. It was a smart choice, as the energy level never really dipped after that aside from when they played a new song (prefaced with “This is Clare’s favorite song,” which got a bit of a cheer from some random ladies in attendance, presumably named Clare). They also played a livelier version of “Brothers” than on record, showcasing Cohen’s multi-instrumentalist tendencies as he switched from drums to synths with ease. Those drums were highlights on other songs, as the band’s well-known contrast between pop synths and tropical steel drums really popped when performed live.
The strongest part of the set was the ending, which is just another professional strength that Tanlines has appropriated. The highlight from both their album and the set is the more somber “Not The Same,” which starts with a repeating piano line before thumping a bass drum in. When the song inevitably climaxes, the crowd lost their collective shit, shouting the title back at the duo. Afterwards, Cohen laughed and proclaimed that that was “probably my favorite Tanlines song,” getting a clap from this in-agreeance reviewer. That segued into the pop hurricane that is “All Of Me,” easily the most exciting song in the band’s catalog. After an extended intro that seemed to (playfully) tease the audience, the song exploded into its big chorus, which predictably became even bigger with the whole room shouting along. A quick encore break followed, followed by the understated “Real Life” taking the duo out, back into the city that they call home. It was a cold home on this particular night, but like the crowd shuffling awkwardly out, it’s likely that they were sweating a bit from dancing a very quick hour away.