Some bands tend to eschew everything you’d expect from them. With an oddball name, songs that blur genre lines, and an aura that breathes a welcoming attitude, Rainbow Kitten Surprise embodies that sense of the unexpected. Last week at Riviera, they performed in front of two sold-out crowds that really established that reputation.
Mt. Joy opened up a night with a genuinely surprising performance. I had seen them grace the Metro stage a few years ago, and while they impressed there, it wouldn’t measure up to the confidence they have accrued since. The band seemed all the more honed and energetic on stage, delivering a great opening set feature a fantastic cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a big highlight of their set.
The Riviera was insanely packed for Rainbow Kitten Surprise. The band had sold out their two-night stint fairly quickly. Considering the group played Lincoln Hall in 2017 and Metro just last year, it’s safe to say that this is quite the impressive feat. And as Sam Melo, Darrick “Bozzy” Keller, Ethan Goodpaster, Charlie Holt, and Jess Haney made their way to the stage, it became readily apparent that a bigger stage is exactly what they needed to fully display their performance ability.
There wasn’t a moment where the energy dipped or the enthusiasm faltered from either the crowd, which was completely enamoured with RKS, or the band. The obvious star of the show is Melo, whose over the top movements were impossible not to be mesmerized by. His charisma is seemingly unending, leading his band and the crowd with an undeniable success. Melo leaps from the perch his keyboards sit at and dances his way to center stage with all the gravitas in the world, delivering songs like “Cocaine Jesus” with as much seriousness as absurdity.
There were times where it all felt a little too polished, too professional. I wished for their slower, more emotional folky songs to feed off that energy rather than the over-the-top nature of the evening. The rawnesss of their original sound was overwhelmed by their more rock forward confidence. However, that newness never fully detracted from the band’s inherent talent and the fun they ended up delivering. As far as showmanship goes there are few bands that reach this level of quality.
Their setlist spanned their releases, giving everyone at the show something to look forward to and eventually champion. Whether they were singing along to old favorites like “First Class” and “Devil Like Me” or jamming along to newer tracks like the unrealized “No Vacancy”, the crowd was always ready for more. Towards the end of their set “That’s My Shit” saw Mello and Keller trading off vocals and dancing around each other in a dizzying spectacle that really set the bar high for the night.
Their encore set ended the night as perfectly as RKS possibly could. The lighting went wild, spitting out lasers throughout and their performances becoming even more emphatic and joyous. Melo took a moment to thank the crowd before letting “Goodnight Chicago” stand as the final song of the night. The crowd certainly appreciated, dancing along with Rainbow Kitty Surprise just as hard as they had all evening long, closing out the second sold out night at the Riviera.