The comeback tour has always held a place of high honor in the
live concert canon. There is something almost heroic about a band
uniting after some catastrophe to play a courageous, if standard,
show.

The catastrophe in question for British prog-rock band Stereolab
was the death of co-vocalist Mary Hansen in 2002. While riding her
bicycle, Hansen was hit by a truck, leaving the dynamic dual vocals
of Stereolab permanently sliced in half. Even if it has been done
before, the comeback of a band missing a singer is rarely handled
perfectly. It is a genre-spanning aphorism that bands cannot
survive the loss of a lead singer and remain the same band.
Stereolab’s loss was a significant blow and their current
world tour is a crucial point for the young group.

In sensitivity to their recent loss, Stereolab’s April 10
show at the Majestic Theater in Detroit centered on their latest
release, Margerine Eclipse. While it was disappointing not
to hear more from Stereolab’s creative earlier years, it was
obvious that the band put forth the effort to make their set list
long and enjoyable.

The style of many songs involves an abrupt shift from Laetitia
Sadier’s soft and poignant vocals to an interesting
electro-fueled mess of instrumentals. This style gave Sadier a
chance to play catchy trombone scales, a pleasing break from the
cacophony. It also gave the crowd an opportunity to reflect on the
flashy visuals playing behind the band. It seemed outwardly ironic
that the seven instrumentalists on stage creating all of the music
were so cohesive. All of the solos in the middle of this mess did
not seem out of place, regardless of whether they were played on a
French horn or a Rhodes keyboard. Added up, the band produced music
to push the limits of electro-pop.

The crowd, in return, seemed to be very respectful of the band,
cheering when Stereolab did play their “hits,”
“Lo Boob Oscillator” and “Cybele’s
Reverie.” The audience danced euphorically to the prolonged
instrumentation and didn’t laugh when Sadier tried to do
“the robot.” All of the commotion around Hansen’s
death and the resulting limit in Stereolab’s set list made it
all the more cathartic to hear those classic songs, even if they
were slightly bittersweet.

Stereolab showed their strength by playing an incredibly sober,
immensely enjoyable show after the death of such an important
member.

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