Active Child made their Cleveland debut at the Beachland Tavern last night, playing lofty music for an introverted crowd.
Frontman Pat Grossi, a sober-looking redhead, sat center stage with a harp between his legs and plucked set opener “High Priestess” backed by two bandmates on synthesizer and electronic drums.
Immediately obvious from the moment Grossi opened his mouth was the crisp, choral tone of his voice, which spread like a sheet over the chord bed laid by the keys.
His heady voice twisted within arpeggios and warped vocal harmonies running through laptops, like during the pensive chorus of “Way Too Fast.”
In other places, the bass and drums bounced under the slow, swelling lines of his melodies, pushing the songs along, like in the poppy “When Your Love Is Safe,” while simultaneously pulling them back from the verge of mawkishness.
Taking audience requests, the band played “Wilderness,” but that was the apex of the interaction. Mostly the crowd stood, barely moving, clapping politely at the end of each song and not enough at the end of the set to draw an encore.
But an Active Child show is not really the place to be, well, active. The music, grandiose and layered, lends itself to introspection, and the artists do nothing to interfere with that.
Instead, listeners are left largely undisturbed for a show that highlights composition over stage presence, and are spared the pretentiousness one might expect from a guy with a harp. —Adam Burroughs