Minus the Bear: Ritz Ybor, Tampa, FL 5/12/10

It’s always impressive when a band can reproduce its studio trickery before an audience. Seattle prog-rockers Minus the Bear prove as muchfrom the stage—the five-man machine operates live just as tightly as it does in the studio—but it wouldn’t hurt MtB to forget about recreating its songs note for note.

Still, these men bring a strong set list to the stage. The lanky and bearded Jake Snider resembles a storybook Jesus as he leads his men into the up-tempo opener, “Drilling,” from MtB’s MENOS EL OSO album. A healthy dose of the fourth (and latest) record, OMNI, follows with Alex Rose’s keyboard leading the charge on the instant classics “My Time,” “Summer Angel” and “Excuses.”

Minus the Bear pushes new wave pop music beyond the synthesizer—Dave Knudson’s electric guitar effects sound as if they were crafted on Mars, while Erin Tate’s intricate drumming style combines with Cory Murchy’s bass to challenge the definition of 21st century progressive rock. Some of MtB’s quirky peers might rely on a pretentious haircut or flashy wardrobe for effect, but this 10-year-old band lets its melodic hooks and cerebral arrangements do the talking.

Maybe MtB sounds so precise live because the band recorded OMNI as a live band. But the group never strays far from the sound of its original recordings, and this might be what holds MtB back from creating the live raw energy they seem so capable of producing. Withan album as impressive as OMNI, it’s too bad MtB doesn’t take advantage of the new one by playing more of it tonight. The group peppers its performance with cuts from its 2002 debut, HIGHLY REFINEDPIRATES, and closes the 18-song show with the powerful “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse.” It’s a solid show from Minus the Bear, and a good live demonstration of the band’s fine-tuned studio capabilities.

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