If you need proof that it’s a good time for rock and roll, Caroline Rose is it. Over the years the Vermont artist has evolved from a folkie into a full-fledged rocker. Her offbeat persona that balances serious songwriting chops and oddball humor came through full force in last year’s Loner. Rose and her band have been on the road almost continuously since its release, and on Saturday, February 23rd they returned to Portland, Oregon’s Doug Fir Lounge for the second time in a year, this time to a sold out crowd.
Following a set of hushed yet powerful indie rock from Seattle’s ings, Superet took the stage and completely blew everyone away. The first thing that stuck out was the incredible voice of singer Matt Blitzer, who commanded the crowd as he channeled a swirling mix of glam, triumphant 70s rock, Brit pop, and the vocal coolness of artists like David Bowie and Spoon’s Britt Daniels. The band matched his power with a relentless groove, Chic-style guitar riffs, and unbridled energy from Alex Fischel’s frenetic synths that switched from New Wave to spooky to disco-laced dance anthems throughout the set. As the band tackled songs off their new EP Comes As Relief alongside older tunes and a rousing cover of Blur’s 90s hit “Girls and Boys”, there was a chill-inducing feeling that something exciting was happening onstage and that, even though most in attendance had never heard of them until this moment, they are destined for bigger things.
Those who attended Caroline Rose’s show at the Doug Fir in June of last year didn’t find a whole lot of difference in the setlist, but it was fun to see how tight a band can get after being on the road for so long. Opening with the dark and electronic “To Die Today”, the band wasted little time getting down to business. Songs from Loner proved to be just as catchy in the live setting, with the anthemic chorus of “More of the Same”, the pop-punk of “Cry!”, and the soaring euphoria of “Soul No. 5” all transforming the crowd into a singalong dance party. Other tunes like the New Pornographers-esque “Heart Is Just a Number” showcased Rose’s ability to craft punchy power pop. She also knew how to trigger a sense of nostalgia by playing a surprisingly spot-on cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. While Rose is known for her humorous banter that borders on stand-up comedy, she cut most of that out and let the music speak for itself, with her talented band providing a well-tuned rock and roll backbone to make the songs shine.
For those who discovered Rose through Loner, the set definitely did not disappoint as she played every song from it. But if there was one thing lacking, it was the absence of material from Rose’s first two albums, which she seemingly wants to bury as she forges ahead with a slightly different sound. 2012’s America Religious and 2014’s I Will Not Be Afraid were striking collections of folk, and pop-laced Americana and rockabilly. Yet, for whatever reason, Rose has chosen to overlook the beautiful songs from these albums. In Portland, Rose and her band put on an undeniably fun and energetic rock show, but with so much more good music in her repertoire, it would have been nice to see her dive a little deeper to show just how dynamic of an artist she really is. Many of those earlier songs, such as “Tightrope Walker”, “I Will Not Be Afraid”, and “American Religious”, feel more relevant than ever and would surely please even her newest fans.