Matthew Vlahovich of Young Empires at Royal Athletic Park during Rifflandia/BreakOut West on Sept. 19, 2015 (Photo by Tyson Elder/Used with permission/See more of Tyson’s photos)
Vocalist Matthew Vlahovich has some charisma to spare, and he was ready to share it as he danced to his own music at U Street Music Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Matthew and his band Young Empires performed as openers for Canadian trio Dragonette, providing a smooth, soulful counterpoint to the sparkling house compositions of their countrymen. Technically a trio themselves, Matthew, bassist Jacob Palahnuk, and drummer Taylor Hill toured as a quintet with the support of a touring guitarist and keyboardist.
The total group produced waves of deep sound that benefited the numbers on the debut album by Young Empires, The Gates (released in September) — numbers that generally were uplifting electropop punctuated by worldbeat rhythms and carried by Matthew’s pleasing voice.
As the opening act, Young Empires only took time to perform about seven songs, drawn largely from their album, starting with singles “Mercy” and “So Cruel” — both songs emblematic of the bands penchant for soaring, winding songs that find the means to be uplifting even when their point of view represents pain or longing.
With “So Cruel,” for example, Matthew dances to the funky beat of the song as his touring keyboards sprinkles some brightness over a deep bass set down by Jacob and booming drums from Taylor. The song, about how longing can hurt, still manages an optimistic vibe between Matthew’s hopeful voice and the expansive vibes of the melodies.
Watch Young Empires perform “So Cruel” live from the Verge Music Lab at the Music Mansion presented by SiriusXM Canada on Nov. 2, 2015:
A few songs later, Young Empires perform a standout number to my years — “Rain of Gold” from their 2012 EP, Wake All My Youth. The song definitely has funkier dance rhythms than many of the other songs from the full-length album, and it also has African beats that give it a different profile than their later songs. Freed from playing the keyboards himself (as he may when the band performs as a trio), Matthew really invests in his voice and adds as much expressive motion as the crowded stage at U Street Music Hall allows.
At the end of the show, Young Empires closed their set with the title track from their debut LP, called “The Gates,” of course. The song is less spirited but more spiritual perhaps than songs like “So Cruel.” It’s tighter but less of a dance song than many of the band’s other numbers, which perhaps is appropriate since it concerns itself with finding higher ground.
The flow of the song gives the band the opportunity to collaborate in such a way as to create an uplifting and sonorous jam, and the five work really well together to create an almost gospel texture to the track.
Watch Young Empires perform “The Gates” live at 102.1 The Edge’s Sugar Beach in Toronto on Sept. 2, 2015:
Young Empires return to Toronto on Sunday to continue their tour with Dragonette, and they support them on some more dates throughout Canada in December. Turn out early to see the gents, who will certainly deliver a polished performance, and stay tuned for when they hit the road again, perhaps as headliners next time!
Thanks to Tyson Elder for permission to link to his photos of Young Empires! Check out the website Rocktographers.ca for more photos and reviews by Tyson.