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Unknown Mortal Orchestra At The Aladdin Theater – Review & Photos

Unknown Mortal Orchestra At The Aladdin Theater – Review & Photos


Unknown Mortal Orchestra recently brought their tour behind this year’s excellent Multi Love to a sold out Aladdin Theater with California psych-rockers Vinyl Williams in tow, and Ruban Nielson and company positively brought the house down.  The excitement in the room throughout the evening was palpable- whether it was Nielson leading Jake Portrait, Riley Geare and Quincy McCrary (a fantastic addition to the band on keys) through top notch versions of literally every song they played throughout the evening, or Nielson climbing the speakers to sing to the crowd from the rafters like a man joyously possessed by some sort of Dionysian spirit- UMO brought the house down.  With Multi Love, a deeply personal record inspired by he and his wife’s recent experiments with polyamory, Nielson has penned one of 2015’s most intriguing records, and after last week’s engagement at the Aladdin, one of it’s most passionate performances.

This was my first time seeing Vinyl Williams, and Lionel Williams’ spacey project was impressive, as were the songs the band was debuting that night from their just-released record Into.  Vinyl Williams’ spaced-out psychedelia was the perfect setup for UMO’s onslaught of blistering funk, and was especially enjoyable if you were in an altered headspace at the time, as I was.  After wrapping their big tour with UMO I’d wager Vinyl Williams will be back soon, and I’d love to see what the band can do in a smaller room in a headlining slot.

And then: Unknown Mortal Orchestra took the stage and completely tore the place down.  The band was positively on fire, with their brand of psychedelic funk and soulful, R&B-infused rock being pushed to the absolute limit throughout the night. The band was playing with such a controlled frenzy I caught myself exclaiming, “Goddamn!” to no one in particular more than once.  I’ve seen UMO a couple of times and always enjoyed it, but this was something else to behold entirely.  Maybe it was the rush of playing these deeply personal songs to a packed room where many in the house actually knew not only the men on stage, but the women that inspired the record; but I’ve never seen the band perform with such abandon before.  One can only imagine the incredible release and gratification Nielson feels performing these songs live in front of audience, and it’s easy to see how that feeling would be amplified several times doing so on your home turf.

The dancefloor at the Aladdin was packed and writhing to such a degree that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the sweaty revelers down front found themselves in a Multi Love-esque situation later in the evening.  Nielson and Co. held the audience in the palms of their hands from the jump, with new tracks like “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” (which was reprised brilliantly in the encore), “Necessary Evil”, and the album’s title track were blended in the setlist very effectively with classics like “So Good At Being In Trouble”.

I honestly can’t think of a more Portland-esque evening: the community passionately supporting a local artist who took a daring chance with his new work by exploring his feelings about his very non-traditional romantic relationship via his art.  The night felt like not only a celebratory triumph for both Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Ruban Nielson, but one for art, one for those of us trying to live a truly unique life and above all; one for love, strange though it may be.

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Photos: Drew Bandy