Brooke Fraser & Dark Waves
The Crocodile, Seattle, WA

On the opening night of her Brutal Romantic tour, Brooke Fraser took to the stage of the sold out Crocodile with the beat-heavy “Psychosocial,” a welcome introduction to the live version of her newly-minted electronic sound. Fraser’s 2014 release of Brutal Romantic marks a distinctly refreshing departure from the acoustic guitar and piano-focused albums she made her name with. And though that sound has garnered her over 15 platinum records, the New Zealand-bred musician is clearly ready to join the ranks of the reigning electro-pop world.

This being her first live show in three years, there were a couple of awkward moments, but overall Fraser came off as welcoming, self-deprecating and just comfortable enough on stage to let us in on her endearingly awkward dance moves. Frankly surprising was the lack of moves coming from the crowd, given the new album’s more danceable beats.

Fraser worked her way through the majority of Romantic with ease, throwing in a few older tracks. Before diving into “Arithmetic” from 2003’s What to do With Daylight, she explained that it’s the only song she’s played consistently on every tour, but that they were going to shake it up a bit this time. And shake it up they did. She and her backing band did the same with every older track they brought out, giving each an invigorated electronic sound.

Though her purist fans could be tentative about accepting this grand, evocative, and clearly purposeful new direction, Fraser hasn’t left her lyrical talents behind. The songs still carry the raw, emotional material of her past records. While performing the title track “Brutal Romance,” Fraser seemed on the verge of tears, giving the impression this material is as deeply personal as ever, only now the delicate, slightly-folksy vibe is left behind for a contrasting, balanced, more rhythmic feel. Following that up with a surprising cover of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” seemed to firmly root Fraser in her desired new direction.

After selling out her opening night at a venue that felt too small, you should get your tickets before it’s too late.

Dark Waves
Opening the show for Fraser was Dark Waves, the brainchild of singer-songwriter Nick Long, a former punk kid from LA. Backed by a full band and dressed all in black, Dark Waves played a 30-minute set of heartbreaking, heavy synth-pop for a crowd that wasn’t familiar with the artist. But given this was their first time in Seattle and their first night touring together, I have a feeling they’ll gain some momentum. The track “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love” has already been a hit on TV’s The Vampire Diaries, and along with “The Heartbeat The Soul,” has hit over 2 million listens on Spotify. This isn’t a band that will stay under the radar for long.

There are already plenty of moody, synth-pop artists flooding the airwaves, so what stands out for Dark Waves? There is a darker honesty and expressive sensitivity to the lyrics, accompanied by a level of musicianship that can be hard to find. Appropriately introspective, Long joked with the crowd that he’s written 500 songs about heartbreak, as it’s so easy to write them, but then played us a new one, a decidedly sappier love song. I’m guessing that more than one member of the audience walked away with a little crush.

After the set, while packing up his own gear, Long leaned over and chatted with a few lucky members of the audience, all brooding eyebrows and friendly grin. This is a guy who knows what he’s doing. Go check out the self-titled Dark Waves EP, released last September, for a short set of slow-burners that prove Long’s musical chops and set the stage for what I’m guessing will be a runaway full-length release.

Brooke Fraser Set List:
Magical Machine
Deciphering Me
New Histories
Start A War
Je Suis Pret
Brutal Romance
Love Lockdown
Kings and Queens
C.S. Lewis Song
Something In The Water

Review by Stephanie Dore
Photos by Sunny Martini

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brookefraser_15Dark Waves