Within the dimly lit confines of Sunset Boulevard’s House of Blues, a melting pot of fans — ranging from tattoo-covered rockers to gaudy, middle-aged mothers — gathered to hear the night’s lineup of Civil Twilight, Crash Kings and Anberlin. Faint blue lights cast a veil of soon-to-be-broken serenity over the awaiting motley crew.
The stage was only faintly visible, partially masked behind a projection screen. After microphone tests were over, the crowd became placated and the projection screen rose to reveal Civil Twilight, the night’s first band — coming to Los Angeles all the way from South Africa.
Civil Twilight’s lead singer Steven McKellar captured the audience’s attention by taking center stage with his sleek, all-black bass guitar. As McKellar began to sing, he further captivated the audience with trembling spurts of falsetto.
The concert was held to raise money for the charity Faceless International, which funds construction of homes in Haiti and Hawaii. These new homes will give basic security and protection to local children from human trafficking and child prostitution. As Civil Twilight got into its set, it became clear that the show would be an all-out rock concert, not just a charity event.
After the band’s opening song, McKellar’s stage character began to develop: He knelt down on the floor of the stage and beckoned to the crowd with his hands, as if to playfully taunt them. The crowd loved it, and as soon as McKellar was back on his feet, he began to rock and jive like Elvis Presley.
The blue and pink lights from the stage mixed with guitarist Andrew McKellar’s delay effect produced a dreamlike aura. This phantsmagora was accentuated by an extended jam session that showed off all three members of Civil Twilight: the McKellar brothers slapped the bass and shredded the guitar while Richard Wouters pulverized the drums.
Civil Twilight soothed the frenetic aftershock of its jam session by playing a smooth love song. Steven McKellar switched from bass guitar to keyboard as a lone spotlight drifted over him; layer upon layer of serene sound lay on the pit as the sounds of the keyboard softened the crowd.
The lights on the stage disappeared dramatically as the ballad ended. Next, Civil Twilight engaged the audience in a sanguine song highlighted by waves of feedback and soulful howls courtesy of Steven McKellar.
Civil Twilight concluded its set on an endearing note, telling the audience to say hello after the concert — the band members would later be in the pit. Their final song incorporated a barrage of drumbeats and piano chords that depicted the epic scene of a building being musically demolished.
Crash Kings took the stage in a way that lived up to the band’s name: Dissonant piano chords resounded throughout the venue accompanied by aggressive drumbeats. Lead vocalist Tony Beliveau sang with a sharp, caustic tone and smacked the keys on his piano in between songs.
The most interesting part of Crash Kings’ set was realizing that they had no lead guitarist. In place of a guitar, Tony Beliveau successfully used a piano keyboard with delay effects and an oversize whammy bar to elicit virtuosic “guitar” solos. The best instrumental solos during Crash Kings’ set were in fact on Beliveau’s electronic keyboard.
Crash Kings generously pumped the audience up for headliner Anberlin. Beliveau got audience members screaming at the top of their lungs — otherwise, he said, Anberlin might not come out.
Anberlin opened with a tempest of dark, pulsating sound waves ushered by the synchronized beating of two drums. Behind the stage, white lights panned slowly down a pitch-black backdrop.
When the headliner performed its older hit “Paperthin Hymn,” the crowd at House of Blues screamed the lyrics as an ecstatic mob, drowning out lead singer Stephen Christian. The crowd’s enthusiasm pleased the group and Christian profusely thanked the crowd.
Anberlin’s set was a balanced blend of old and new songs. Christian dedicated the old songs to the faithful fans that had stuck with the band since its beginning.
When the group played “Dismantle.Repair.,” from its album Cities, Christian’s voice was trumped by robust instrumentals; it sounded as if he was faintly whispering to the crowd, and the residue of his voice echoed silently when there was a pause in the music. When Christian’s voice could be heard, he discharged throat-busting vitriol that gave his vocals an air of vehemence.
The most interesting part of Anberlin’s set was when an unidentified guest singer accompanied Christian on Anberlin’s new hit, “Pray Tell.” The dual vocals added unique harmonic layers to the song — and mystique because nobody knew who the guest singer was.
Throughout the set, the light show onstage matched the melodic and harmonic movements of the instruments. During the song “Impossible,” the guitar part had a nautical delay effect that gave the song the feeling of swimming underwater. Appropriately, the lights onstage were various shades of blue and white and streamed across like waves — accompanied by crowd surfers.
Anberlin adequately concluded the night’s show with its song “Fin” as the encore, which was highlighted by an angelic sounding choir chanting the chorus. Anberlin departed, leaving the audience in a chaotic whirlpool of static feedback.