A late Christmas present for a room of lucky Chicagoans.
Great performers can make any room feel as big or small as they want. Saturday night at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Rostam made the room feel as majestic as a symphony hall and as intimate as a small art show, often within the same song.
Flanked by three violinists and a cellist on one side and a drummer with an electronic kit on the other, Rostam performed a riveting set, occasionally playing guitar (both electric and acoustic), but mostly just singing, and dancing behind the mic during the instrumental breaks. He charmed the audience throughout the show, often stopping to address the crowd in between songs and, more than once, saying that it was his favorite show of the tour so far (sorry, previous cities!).
Most of Rostam’s songs were from his solo debut, Half-Light, released in September of last year. Especially striking were the magical “Bike Dream,” which combines a Velvet Underground-inspired insistence with the well-produced art-pop Rostam is known for, along with “Don’t Let It Get to You,” “Never Going to Catch Me,” “Rudy” and the moving, acoustic-led title track.
Of these, “Rudy” was especially effective live, reminiscent both of the Specials as well as “Diplomat’s Son” from Rostam’s Vampire Weekend days. He also graced the crowd with an affecting unreleased song, slated for release sometime this year, as well as a set-closing cover of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon,” which he announced by saying, “this song was written in 1972.”
The string players and percussionist (who, on some of the songs, made his kit sound like a tabla) meshed perfectly with the prerecorded tracks and triggered samples, giving new life to the album’s songs, which feature the luminous interweaving of Rostam’s pop and electronic sensibilities with influences from Indian and Persian music.
For fans of deep cuts, yes, he did play one Discovery song, as well as “Young Lion,” which felt like the only moment of the night that was a bit of a concession to the crowd.
After the concert was over, the crowd was huddled in the lobby bar of the venue, trying to figure out what to do about the heavy snow. Walking around was Rostam himself, wearing a big red beanie and sipping a Corona—a late Christmas present for a room of lucky Chicagoans.