Concert review: Purity Ring at The Ritz Ybor, Ybor City

The Canadian electro-pop duo brought a dazzling light show but rather bland performance to Tampa this past Thurs., Sept. 10.


The last time Purity Ring came to town, the Canadian electro duo hit the Orpheum behind 2012 full-length debut, Shrines. More than two years later, they returned in support of sophomore follow-up, Another Eternity, but upgraded to a bigger venue on Seventh Avenue — The Ritz Ybor — and managed to sell it out, too.

The Ritz was filled to the brim with eager fans that ranged from late teens to middle age, a pleasant surprise and a true testament to the beauty of music and its ability to bring people of all ages together. L.A. newcomer HANA opened the evening with a handful of new songs, her sound in the same electro-ambient vein as headline act, Purity Ring. 

After a fairly lengthy delay, especially considering the relatively minor amount of gear and instrumentation, Megan James and Corin Roddick made their way onto the stage, kicking off the show right at 10 p.m. The crowd was more than ready to be dazzled and let out a raucous cheer.

The mid-tempo "Stranger Than Earth" — one of my favorite tracks off the new album and an apparent crowd favorite based on the response — got things going. Warm bass filled the room as Roddick paced and sang to synced lighting that washed over the stage. "Heartsigh" and "Repetition" followed, proving the duo's main focus was new material. They ended up cycling through all 10 tracks off Another Eternity, a little disappointing for a set that was 15 songs deep.

The performance itself was a bit static and bland, though this could've been chalked up to the diminutive size of the band and Roddick remaining rather stationary all throughout. James didn't have the dynamic stage presence you'd expect from her sweetly commanding vocals, but she did engage the crowd on occasion, and Roddick maintained a steady head bob that varied with the speed of each song. And the sound was booming, the synth and basslines bouncing around the room and prompting bodies to move all over the venue. Purity Ring proves strongest in beats and production, and it was nice to hear it translated so well in a live setting.

What really set the mood of the show, however, was the superb visuals. Roddick was surrounded by what appeared to be tall lamps, which were linked to his drum machine and lit up as he struck them. The real showpiece was the impressive row upon row of hanging lights strung up on either side of the stage and corresponding with Roddick's beats. It was an awe-inspiring sight, but unfortunately, may have been more compelling than the performance itself.

Full disclosure: I'm a fan of Purity Ring. I've followed them since hearing breakout single, "Lofitcries" and I've been jamming their new LP all summer. However, I was a little disappointed in the sound quality of James' vocals, a key component to Purity Ring's sound that was lost in the mix. Maybe it was where I was standing in relation to the stage or they did a bad soundcheck, but the attendees around me agreed that her vocals sounded washed out. The lack of live instrumentation was also a bit of a let-down; just Roddick's soundboard and lamps. It'd be nice to see the duo bring a few more players on the road — a guitarist, maybe a percussionist. Not only would they prove welcome additions but add some lushness to the live sound.

Purity Ring performed for exactly 60 minutes, a tad short for my liking. Granted, they only have two albums worth of material, but they could've thrown in a few more tracks off their debut, given us just a little more to quench our appetites. They ended the set with "Fineshrine" and encored with "Begin Again," although they never actually left the stage. 

All in all, it was a decent concert that had some highs and lows, with a cool light show and head bob-worthy sounds. But I left the concert wanting more.

Setlist:
Stranger Than Earth
Heartsigh
Repetition
Obedear
Lofticries
Push Pull
Belispeak
Crawlersout
Bodyache
Sea Castle
Dust Hymn
Flood on the Floor
Stillness in Woe
Fineshrine
Begin Again

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