Last Friday, I once again found myself in a sea of mostly bearded, 20-somethings (apparently a common motif in my life) at the beautiful Royal Oak Music Theatre. This time, it was to witness one of emo rock’s most talented bands Circa Survive. In honor of its ten-year anniversary, the band performed their second LP On Letting Go in full, including two b-sides recently put out on Bandcamp with all proceeds going to the ACLU.
Circa Survive are an astoundingly gorgeous band. Their music is absorbing, and their visual performance keeps up toe-to-toe. Last year, Circa did an anniversary tour for their first record, Juturna. While still a beautiful show, Circa decided to one-up it and go all out with their stage presence this time around. Two replicas of their iconic woman’s head-turned-hot-air-balloon image from the album cover flanked each side of the stage, featuring mesmerizing projections timed to the music. In contrast to last year’s show, I found my eyes constantly sweeping the stage from the fantastical light show and energy flowing through every member.
A caveat to anniversary shows is that there’s no suspense to the setlist — the album is the setlist. There’s no thinking involved in pacing the set. When an artist has such expertly crafted material like Circa’s, they really can’t be blamed for wanting to continue playing them through. On Letting Go encapsulates the inimitability of Circa while still remaining an incredibly cohesive listen ten years later. Even with the addition of the heavier b-side tracks, the play-through felt incredibly satisfying.
Beyond the spectacular lights and sounds, the band members themselves add volumes to the merit of the performance. This was my third time seeing frontman Anthony Green in concert, and the enigmatic ecstasy in which he performs remains radiant. He commands the sea of fans with ease, hands grasping for him as they scream the words back in his face, attempting to pull off his unmatched growling falsetto. His bandmates follow suit, moving with the music, rarely stagnant. The entirety of the stage was as visually dynamic as I’ve ever seen at the venue — the performance demanded absolute attention.
Another prominent feature of the show (and anniversary shows in general) is the intensity of the crowd. The pit moved as one big mass as long-time fans let themselves go (no pun intended) to the music they’ve loved for years. United in their love, strangers and fans sing with each other, throw each other in the pit and boost each other to crowdsurf in their passion. The camaraderie amongst the crowd — especially those within the punk rock scene — adds a uniquely beautiful, dynamic element to the entire experience.
Circa Survive is a band whose beauty, both sonic and visual, simply crackles with electricity. The complexity of their recorded music translates perfectly into performance. Every word and note were heard with the utmost clarity, and the band’s sparkling brilliance shone through every aspect of the show. Circa proved they know damn well how to put on an anniversary show for the second year in a row, this time outdoing themselves and more than satisfying the fans who have been with them since the beginning.