The Shelter is small, dense and dark. Exposed ceiling beams and black support beams give the space an air of raw authenticity — just the way a venue for the arts ought to unfold to its audience. BØRNS graced the basement of St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit on Wednesday night, enchanting the small crowd with his long brown locks and delicate vocals. Not dissimilar to the main attraction, Phases prepped the crowd by filling the room with a flirty, jumping sound as the second of two openers.

The young crowd seemed unable to contain its excitement, though, bursting out in waves of cheers every few minutes while waiting for the Michigan native to take the stage. Stepping onto the small stage with his band, BØRNS opened with “Dug My Heart” and was almost entirely eclipsed by the shouts, applause and singing voices of the crowd. Whether it was an elongated tone of the keyboard, a smattering of conversation from the performers or a few quick strums of a guitar, there was never a silent moment.

This lack of intimacy is uncommon for a venue as small as The Shelter, but it was made up for with the performance and few utterances by BØRNS himself. His body language — raising a quivering arm above his head or bending to croon over the masses in front of him — told the crowd that he is completely consumed in his art. Describing the crowd as “beatific bodies and glorious spirits,” BØRNS brought out the more sensual and warm underlying tones of his music. He described his audience as an ocean and dedicated “Overnight Sensation” to the crowd by describing the tune as “a love letter from me to you.”

Wrapping up the evening with an encore performance of “Bennie and the Jets” and “Seeing Stars,” BØRNS flexed his musical muscle. By ending with one of his singles from his first EP, he was able to show how far he has come as an artist in such a short period of time. And, judging by the passion of his fans and the musical mastery shown on Wednesday, there is nothing stopping him from continuing to do so.

— Carly Snider

***

I googled the word “pretentious” as I attempted to gather my reeling thoughts surrounding BØRNS’s set at The Shelter on Wednesday. I googled the word “pretentious” because I realized the impossibility of talking about BØRNS without sounding pretentious.

pre·ten·tious: adjective 1. attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.

I then googled “tentious” because I was curious if there was a semantically-related word for “impressing by affecting importance, talent, culture etc., that is actually possessed.” That would be how to best describe the experience of BØRNS. His set, almost entirely pulled from his debut album, Dopamine, elevated the basement of St. Andrew’s Hall, effectively neutralizing the hot air into soft coolness mimicked by the crowd’s sways, subtle arm waves and smiling faces. The electro-pop sound crafted by the Michigan native feels like a concept album. Each track touches on a different subtlety in the emotional love story crafted between its narrator and subject.

In some cases it was a love letter from BØRNS to the crowd with “Overnight Sensation.” Set opener “Dug My Heart” is easily overlooked between the musical-liquid hybrid magic of “10,000 Emerald Pools” and the soaring vocals of “Electric Love” on the LP, but live the track’s drum beats vibrated throughout the room, priming the crowd for what was to follow. The repetition in “Dopamine” built the crowd a tiny bit closer to euphoria, and the funk of “The Fool” kept the spirit high.

Each song further built up the bubble created by BØRNS’s singular, listener-engulfing sound so much that when the time came for his two-song encore of a “Bennie and the Jets” cover and “Seeing Stars,” the crowd, band and BØRNS himself felt fluid in an evening of ecstatic percussion and smooth delivery.

It’s OK that I sound pretentious writing about BØRNS. I use smooth language and vibe-y diction to describe the concert, but in the end it’s BØRNS with the “importance, talent and culture” to back me up.

— Christian Kennedy

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