For Rhye, it has always been about the music. Initially starting as a joint project of singer/songwriter Mike Milosh and producer Robin Hannibal, the band fell completely under the command of Milosh due to the quiet exit of Hannibal after their debut album Woman. The years that followed were tumultuous; Rhye’s relationship with record label Polydor crumbled and, as a result, Milosh bought out his band, touring Woman relentlessly in order to ensure Rhye still had a future. His dedication and perseverance in continuing his craft is visible in every careful, measured note of Rhye’s most recent release, Blood.
It was also visible in El Club on Mar. 6, as Rhye took to the stage for the Detroit stop of their tour. Under the dim stage lights, the focused concentration on Milosh’s face as he played songs from both Blood and Woman was barely discernible, yet the message was clear: This was an artist who was completely surrendering to the art he had produced. Sincerity sweetened every melody; intensity strengthened every chorus.
Rhye is a band meant to be seen live. Their normally muted, stripped-down tracks were injected with new energy. The opening song — “3 days,” off Woman — set the mood for the rest of the night: Hazy blue spotlights added a dreamy tint to every rise and fall of the keyboard, every pulse of the drum, every trembling detail within Milosh’s vocals. He crooned, “We got three days to feel each other / We got three days to sing this song,” and the tempo swelled, developing a life of its own.
The rest of the show was equally as dynamic. The funky rhythms of more upbeat songs “Phoenix,” “Count To Five” and “Hunger” were drawn out, backing instrumentals often veering off into elaborate solos that do not appear on the albums themselves and turned the audience into a pit of waving limbs. The slower tempos of quieter songs “Waste,” “Song For You” and “Please” were also extended — the delicate pull of the accompanying live cello and violin drawing attention to the hushed release of Milosh’s voice.
For someone who prefers to largely remain in the shadows of anonymity, Milosh had a surprisingly personable stage presence. Weaving around on stage, he danced to the beat of his own songs, moving in sync with the crowd and, like the rest of us, seemingly entranced with the music’s hypnotic sway. In between songs, he cracked jokes, politely told some audience members off for being a little too loud in the back and complimented the vibe of the venue. The last place Rhye played had been too big; El Club, he remarked, was just small enough, fostering a distinct intimacy. As always, his voice was smooth, measured — melodious even in speech.
It reverberated around the expanse of the venue — soft, yet still compelling — as Milosh asked for the stage lights to be dimmed to the point of near non-existence before launching into the aching expanse of “Open” during the last half of the show. Unable to be seen, the band grew larger-than-life and painfully personal, each note delivered with a distinct caress. “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs / I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs,” Milosh murmured into the dark, and the string arrangement responded. Somewhere out of the gloom, various brass instruments mournfully began their serenade. The song shuddered on, and as you stood, gutted and vulnerable in the shadows, you almost felt like Rhye was speaking directly to you.