Last Night: Ratatat at the Palladium Ballroom

Palladium Pallroom
September 28, 2010

Better than: Avatar--'cause, yeah, Ratatat had more effects.

Last time Ratatat came to Dallas, they played at the Granada. This year, they played at the Palladium. And, as the band's Evan Mast told us this week, that meant fans could expect an even bigger, better, and more fun show.

And Ratatat kept that promise.

This tour's show featured a plethora of songs from the band's new album (LP4), a huge video screen, and, yes, two holographic projection screens.

Without saying a word, the dynamic duo began pumping their music at around 10 p.m., and the party in the audience commenced.

Like many other electro-rock outfits, this band features no other members live aside from its original duo, with Mike Stroud on guitar and Mast on bass and the occasional synth. All the other layers of the sound were on playback, which, yes, kind of sucked.

But the visual overload made up for that.

For the entire show, there was a huge screen that kept projecting psychedelic images while two holographic screens on the sides either complemented those visuals or featured Ratatat in classical clothes, playing a cello and violin. It made for an experience that was both fun and, yes, a little funny, while also testing one's epilepsy limits.

But the videos weren't just psychedelic: So many times throughout the show, they actually featured some real emotion too. And that's what made the Ratatat visuals so great; they were fun and trippy, but at times had real meaning behind them.

The set list was well-made, too, starting with "Bob Gandhi." The fans went nuts instantly. And Ratatat didn't turn down the pace till about six songs later, with "Mahalo." The beat-less bass/guitar song featured traveling on an Indian river on screen, so that much was understandable.

But that was quickly cured with the next song--crowd favorite "Wildcat"--which was the pinnacle of the night, as everyone went wild, no pun intended.

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You really do notice Stroud's guitar-bending on this song and how much he has worked on his intricacies; it was also interesting to watch him and see which sounds actually come from his guitar. He really uses his pedals to provide a multi-layered experience.

Mast's bass playing was no different. Unlike on records, you can really feel the grit of his bass. Instead of just having a looped bass groove, his bass lines provided perfectly timed bends and that made for an organic dance feel--something few other electronic shows can boast.

Watching the crowd's reaction, the songs provided an interesting experience. It seemed like this show attracted hipsters of all kinds: There were people who were rocking, hip-hopping, relaxing, raving, dancing, even D-town boogie-ing.

And that's what makes a Ratatat show so interesting. It's a rock show, a hip-hop show, a world music show, and an electronic show all at the same time. Or, pretty much, whatever an individual wanted it to be.

One place of improvement could have in their encore performance of "Bare Feast," though. On this track, Ratatat brought out Middle Eastern drums and commenced to turn the house into a tribal party. Although the audience loved it, the drum playing was not particularly on point, occasionally somewhat off-beat. People seemed not to notice, but anyone who listens to drums a lot would've spotted it instantly. Blame the fact that the band just seemed somewhat tired at this point, though--which isn't altogether surprising, considering that they'd played their 90 minutes set non-stop with only 15 second breaks between songs by this point.

Overall though, the twosome was incredibly tight and didn't disappoint.

Earlier in the night, Bobby Birdman, a duo featuring a singer, drummer, and looped beats, opened the show. The singer's baritone voice actually worked well with its electro-rock sound, but group was a bit boring live because of their lack of any visual elements or a full band.

The next act, Dom, sounded like hard rock done by the mall-punk set. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though; the singer really knew how to growl, and the guitar playing was decent. But the band does need to improve if they want to really be noticed.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I did have some trouble keeping up with the multi-sensory experience. But I'm also a fan of Ratatat, so I recognized most of the songs.

Random Note: I think the group only offered three sentences of banter throughout the entire show.

By The Way: I should have brought sunglasses. Too many lights.

Set list:
Bob Gandhi
Grape Juice City
Loud Pipes
Falcon Jab
Party With Children

Seventeen Years
Bare Feast

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