Civil Twilight outshines local heroes in Provo, UT (7/23)

From an outsider’s point of view, the hubbub surrounding Provo’s favorite venue, Velour, might seem normal. But to the trained eye, this was no ordinary night. Velour is typically home to local acts, open mic nights, and the occasional up and coming act (previously alumni include Bishop Allen, John Vanderslice, and The Morning Benders), and is the sort of place you go to just hang out on the weekend, no matter who’s playing. It’s a very inviting, calm environment usually involving fairly small crowds.

But there was something different about this night. The calm was gone, replaced by a tangible frenzy. Provo natives Neon Trees, who have hit the big time (kinda) were returning for a stop in their home town on their US tour. After sifting through a wave Neon Trees t-shirts, walking past a merch booth where kids were throwing down Jacksons like monopoly money, and a sign that very directly and excitedly proclaimed the show “SOLD OUT!!!”, I managed to get inside the small venue.

The thing about small venues? They’re small, as in not large, as in not big enough to house large crowds. But this was no matter on the night of the 23rd. Filled to the brim, the crowd awaited the return of their prodigal sons. But in order to receive the long-awaited Neon Trees set, they had to sit through the set of relative unknowns, Civil Twilight.

Brief history: Civil Twilight grew up in Cape Town, South Africa in a suburb away from all apartheid. The band drew largely from the UK and the US, and developed a very specific musical taste for alt-rock. They relocated to Los Angeles four years ago and have been trying to make it big ever since. I feel their chance is right around the corner.

Anyhow, the South African trio came onstage and played little tidbits from their album, eight songs in total, and the crowd began to see that this wasn’t just some filler opener, these guys were for real. Playing their heatseeker hits “Letters From The Sky”, and “Human”, the crowd began to subdue to hear more of what this band had to offer. The highlight of their set was an unbelievable cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, with earth-shattering vocals by lead singer Steven McKellar.

Unfortunately a bit of this impressive performance was lost on the trying-too-hard crowd (I really believe my photographer and I were the only ones to recognize “Teardrop” in the entire establishment), who were ready for Neon Trees indie-pop. The dark, ominous chords and falsetto bits were a push for some, but I believe a lot of the crowd came out impressed in the end. They’d have to have been completely ignorant to have not. Talent was staring them right in the face, and there’s no way they missed it entirely.

They blew me away, and they sort of stole the show, in my eyes. They far outplayed Neon Trees, who have quite an energy, but lack in musical prowess. Lead singer Tyler Glenn put on a Freddie Mercury frontman vibe and really rocked the place to the ground, and the crowd loved every minute of it. They played their big heatseeker hit “Animal” off their major label debut Habits, along with other less notable tracks from the album. They left their Provo hometown homies happy, and it was quite a night for Velour, on the whole. But the ace in the whole of the night turned out to be the South Africans.

But I think Civil Twilight really took the spotlight and deserved it, as they put on a more raw, emotional show filled with refined musical talent and just plain better music. As a SLC/Provo native, I will give props to Neon Trees (even though they kind of hate me for this) for working so hard to get where they are, writing a good record, and for putting on a crazy live show. All in all, I don’t see how anyone could have left the venue unsatisfied; a very good performance from a couple of fantastic up and comers.

Photography by Spencer Wahlstrom and Danelle Kay.


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