Show Review: Mikky Ekko

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Last Tuesday night, Rough Trade in New York City lit up with newcomers Transviolet, and the Nashville-based heartthrob Mikky Ekko, who has made waves with his most recent collaboration with Rihanna on “Stay.”

It was the first time in NYC for Transviolet, who are originally from LA. Coming out with a strong electronic sound, front woman Sarah McTaggart got right into the music. With a sound much like Misterwives, the band had instant attraction. The crowd was a good one, and though for the most part unfamiliar with Transviolet, it definitely took to their first song.

The next song, “New Bohemia,” kicked up that intrigue as Transviolet added more energy, both instrumentally and in performance. McTaggart’s voice was impressive, translating well to the live arena. Then came one of my favorites, which incorporated a unique beat and sound effects. The vocals were toned down a bit, creating a very Lorde-esque sound that was captivating. The next two songs were quite the switch. The first had a sweet, almost spring tone to it that was light and refreshing. But then the following gave a more sci-fi feel that really showed how Transviolet plays with the different sounds within electronic-pop.

As the set went on, McTaggart became more vocal toward the crowd and it started to warm up to the band even more. Transviolet fed off this energy and went on to showcase some songs that you could tell they were proud of. Another one of my favorites was “Bloodstream,” an angsty track that again set it apart from the others. The venue was also able to coordinate some unique lighting effects with the song that brought it to life even more.

Finally, Transviolet finished with “Girls Your Age,” their single that recently caught fire, with remixes already being released.  It’s got a sort of wolfish sound that attracts attention, and the slow theatrical performance of it live was a definite hit.

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When it was time for Mikky Ekko, you could definitely feel it in the crowd. Soon enough he took the stage, looking like Jared Leto and crooning like The Script.  Ekko took immediate control of the room as well as the stage, though his band provided an excellent accompanying sound.

Ekko broke through with “Riot” next, a frantic, high energy track that set the crowd ablaze.  Ekko poured the emotion into the song, feeding off the words, “We are a riot if we want it.”  One thing Ekko was great at was transitioning throughout his set.  For the next few songs he slowed it down, beginning with “Mourning Doves.”  The song showcased Ekko’s vocal range, receiving high praise from his fans.  Then we were graced with what Ekko called “love songs.”  Most notable was “Pull Me Down,” one of my favorites from the night.  With all the emotion of Sam Smith, this song instantly pulled on my heartstrings.  Ekko’s heartfelt delivery only further set the mood, and moved beautifully into the next song, “U.”  The most sensual of the night, it is no doubt Ekko stole a few hearts with “U.”

Ekko took a break with “Disappear,” which does not appear on the album, but one that Ekko is proud of.  It was the slowest song of the night, but allowed Ekko the most power to shine through with his vocals.  After pausing to sign a record for a fan, Ekko moved to an acoustic rendition of “Time,” the title track on his album.  His voice rang clear and true, and the lyrics were another perfect example of the depth of Ekko and his talent.

Soon the band came back with a vengeance, launching us into a set of upbeat, R&B influenced songs.  “Pretend You Care” was especially reminiscent of the legend himself, Justin Timberlake.  “Loner” was another favorite with its unique opening, leaning more on the instrumental.  Ekko had impeccable vocal control and there was the perfect opportunity for crowd participation.  It wasn’t even prompted and felt like everyone had been waiting all night for just that moment.

The crowd involvement continued with “Watch Me Rise” and “Love You Crazy.”  Everyone had been feeling Ekko’s soul and energy, but now all of sudden the crowd seemed to release it back out to him.  The room let loose with “Watch Me Rise” and the excitement over “Love You Crazy” proved the song a favorite.

Unique to such a small venue, Mikky Ekko came out for an encore set.  He started again with “Stay,” his collaboration with Rihanna that we had all been waiting for.  Naturally the crowd was ecstatic and the participation was kicked up a notch.  To finish the night, Ekko closed with “Smile,” which had both band and crowd immersed in the feel-good sounds.

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