Rhye preview new album in a quietly spectacular turn at the Moroccan Lounge

Rhye at the Moroccan Lounge (Photo by Kevin Bronson)
Rhye at the Moroccan Lounge (Photo by Kevin Bronson)

“The point of this is to play some new songs,” singer Mike Milosh told the sold-out crowd at the cozy Moroccan Lounge on Tuesday night, “but we’re going to play some old songs too.” To which someone in the back yelled, “We’re here for all of it!”

The crowd was indeed, as fog flooded the stage, someone lit the sage and the baroque down-tempo R&B outfit Rhye ran through a baker’s dozen during a one-off show that alternated between so silent you could hear the photographer’s shutter click and uproarious applause. Translating Rhye’s music from studio to stage transforms it into much jazzier interpretations, stretching each song out with nuanced explorations of what it could be. Opener “3 Days” highlighted that, stripping out the percussive synthy backbone for its hushed essence with small towels muffling the snare drums, and loose, quietly booming lyrics coasting over the precise playing.

Rhye’s seven-piece band packed the Moroccan’s stage between baby palm trees and equipment and played a handful of songs off their sophomore album, coming in January, including some for the first time live. Piano-driven “Softly” ached with soft intricate drums before the strings subtly took over the sound. “Waste” had the cello and violin crying under the purple light, before the trombone and violin started flirting with synth tones. “Count to 5,” noted as the possible next single, soundtracked a couple making out against the wall stage left and sounded like the Isley Brothers on Quaaludes with bluegrass flourishes. “Taste,” one of the year’s standout songs, had one of the night’s tastiest grooves as guitarist Nate Mercereau shredded while sandwiched stage right between a baby palm, organ and half a drum kit, before the band broke it all down to a delicate coda that again pulled it all back to Milosh’s gorgeous falsetto.

The live reinvention of the older material felt different than you remember it, with “Major Minor Love” ending in a tandem tribal drum and cello solo that culminated with the band’s biggest crescendo of the night, or fan favorite “Open” beginning by slowing to a crawl — to where the band played their instruments so quietly you could hear your own breathing. The set had a roller-coaster quality, Milosh even noting between songs, “We’re gonna bring it down because that’s not sustainable,” as “The Fall” got everyone shuffling early, “Hunger” got everyone swaying really hard late, and “Please” just allowed people that were there for all of it to stand and feel things.

Setlist: 3 Days, Please, The Fall, Major Minor Love, Softly, Last Dance, Waste, Stay Safe, Taste, Open, Count to 5, Hunger, Song For You.

||| Live: Rhye plays the Orpheum Theatre on March 17. Tickets.

||| Also: Rhye this week released a new video for the single “Taste.” Here it is: