If rock and roll’s about anything, it’s about fast cars, loose women and cheap intoxicants. Of those, the House of Blues’ Foundation Room seems equipped only for the lattermost. Step through a pair of unguarded yellow doors on Lansdowne Street in Boston, opposite Gate C at Fenway Park. You’re immediately intercepted by two nattily-dressed gentlemen who check your name off a list, affix sparkling red bracelets and offer to take your coats. Up two flights of stairs to a plush foyer that isn’t so much dimly lit as heavily darkened: concealed, indirect lighting pointing toward the crown molding. Overstuffed couches form a defensive perimeter around a roaring fireplace. The bartop is black marble and a Miller Lite is $6; rather cheap for a Boston club, and they’ll even pour it in a plastic cup so you can carry it onto the floor.
Editors, who played the House of Blues this past Thursday, don’t fit the other two criteria of rock ‘n roll either. Tom Smith, lead warbler, has three microphones to choose from: one in front of each of two keyboards and a standing mic to lean into and twitch. Chris Urbanowicz, in addition to the guitar slung from his narrow shoulders, has both an autoharp and a step sequencer to choose from. The show starts with the lights dimming, the band emerging, and a few switches being flipped: the dominating tones of “In This Light and On This Evening” leap into the dark air. The set precedes with a technical precision that would make a stage manager nod with lips pursed. Victoria, who took my extra ticket, notes that she never saw Tom or Ed Lay (drums) check in to see when the next song should start. Why would they need to?
What Editors lack in spontaneity they make up for with intensity. You never get the sense that this will be a crazy rock show, one of those rare live occurrences where anything could happen. Tom Smith would never stop two verses through his first song, apologize to the audience and then launch into “Radio Radio” (not the least reason being it’s not his song). But total control of the musical experience, in the hands of talented artists, can create a thick curtain of sound that billows over you. Editors layer gutsy guitar hooks with baroque synthesizers and an anti-artillery barrage of percussion. Like the Foundation Room upstairs, it’s all plush textures and dark corners, something you almost feel vulnerable sharing. It’s that quiet moment before the storm.