Swedish indie group The Radio Dept. let its instruments and minimal backdrop speak for itself at Thalia Hall Saturday. As someone who suffers from synesthesia, the four sets of striped colorful lights sufficed to describe the band’s musical story.
In 2006, Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette released to theaters, and my sister suggested we experience the infamous story together in its Hollywood package. It’s a work of art I remember often while writing my reviews. There were plenty of enchanting moments, created by a combination of visuals, Versailles and music. And since music is the one element that can render me emotional while watching a movie, a soundtrack that features dreamy The Radio Dept. has repeatedly brought me back to Marie Antoinette.
Thalia Hall perfectly captured that majestic and somewhat confusing set of emotions I experience from the sounds and visuals of the movie. This was my first time watching a performance in that venue, and The Radio Dept. could not have excelled further in any other venue special to Chicago. The tearing interior walls and cement ceiling reminded me of Stonehenge, of a plainer beauty. The band was quoted on its public relations page, claiming its 2016 album Running Out Of Love to represent “all the things that are moving in the wrong direction,” politically across the globe.
Johan Duncanson’s vocals in comparison to the harmony of the band’s music masterfully does exactly that. It reminds me of a voice telling me that even though the current times threaten, some good has to come of it all. The guillotine death of Marie Antoinette was that horrific symbol of hope for the suffering lower-class during the French revolution.
That exact aesthetic, combined with the sometimes fast, sometimes sparkly sounds of The Radio Dept., left me not just unable to stop dancing, but also reflective. With a set list dedicated to showcasing 22 years of Radio Dept. craft, Duncanson’s relaxed vocals complemented the pounding synthesizer that accompany a majority of the band’s message.
The thoughtfulness The Radio Dept. music brings upon its fans pays tribute to the constant change in sound the band has compiled since 1995. As soon as the first note on the keyboard introduction to “Heaven’s On Fire” began to play, the entire crowd was moving vigorously.
Though a few groups of fans never stopped dancing during the Thalia Hall performance, everyone was bopping together to songs like “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Swedish Guns,” a political commentary. Just as my concert-going experiences have always shown, fans are united for the same set of reflections, the same beautiful sounds that are familiar to them, despite political tumult across the globe.
That particular keyboard motif, combined with the history that Thalia Hall’s peeling walls indicate, symbolizes a surprising and pleasant future. According to ThaliaHallChicago.com, a man named John Dusek in 1892 wanted to create a hall that was fit for Bohemian arts events, mimicking the Prague opera house blueprint. And that’s exactly what I saw and felt.
Thanks to Thalia Hall’s newest owners, the music of bands like The Radio Dept. brings the hall a brand new story and purpose. For me, listening live to the hoppy, electro-indie sounds of The Radio Dept. in this spacious environment was blissful and futuristic.