June 12, 2013 by Scott Sheff

When it comes to parties, Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian know how to keep their guests entertained. The duo that make up the pop-synth group Capital Cities moved and grooved as they engaged a sold-out crowd at The El Rey Theater in their hometown of Los Angeles.

With an oversized pair of neon sunglasses glowing in the background, Merchant, Simonian and bandmates strutted on stage wearing matching black satin jackets and smiles on their faces. The opening number, a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe,” set the tone for the night not just with its upbeat spin on the classic rock song, but the theme of the tunes on the horizon.

Many of the band’s original songs, as well the covers played, deal with living life to its fullest and being true to oneself. That attitude and belief shine vividly with their uplifting and energetic live performance. But it was with the song “Center Stage” that the band truly engaged with the audience, teaching everyone how to do the “Capital Cities Shuffle” to match the moves made on stage.

While Merchant and Simonian are the faces and voices of the band, one cannot overlook the supporting members of Manuel Quintero (bass), Nick Merwin (guitar) and Spencer Ludwig (trumpet) and what they bring to the live performance. Most notably is the fierce, in-your-face horn-play by Ludwig on “Farah Fawcett Hair” and “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo,” which elevates great dance songs to a whole new level.

In addition to many of the songs found on the band’s debut full-length album A Tidal Wave of Mystery, the night featured several inspirational cover songs, including the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive,” Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and Madonna’s “Holiday.”

Like any good party, it’s hard to see it come to an end. But as good hosts, Simonian and Merchant joined the revelers by jumping off the stage and dancing with the crowd during “Holiday,” giving new meaning to a tour entitled “Dancing with Strangers.” Before closing the night, the duo hopped back on stage for an uplifting sendoff and reprise of “Safe and Sound.”

Despite some early technical difficulties and a visibly frustrated lead singer Mark Robert Fuller, the Australian dance-rock quintet Gold Fields came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and never relented. The opening song of the set, “The Woods,” showcased the band’s tribal sound and infectious beats thanks in large part to the use of dual drum kits.

After 65 shows and a four month tour of the U.S. in support of their debut album Black Sun, Gold Fields was rightfully “looking forward to going back home,” as stated by guitarist Vin Andanar. However, it will be a short-lived visit back to the land Down Under, as the guys from Ballarat, Victoria, will return to America for a new tour in September.

Regardless of Capital Cities’ 2013 impact, one has to wonder if the kitschiness of the over-sized glasses and choreographed moves will enable their act to wear thin over time or will they possibly become career artists?