What does one hope for in a reunion show? For the band you loved to be fossilized and perfectly preserved at the time of its demise, like an ancient bug in amber for thousands of years? A perfect copy of what they were in their glory days? Or perhaps it is preferable to have a beloved band be soaked in the wisdom that comes with hindsight, bringing a sharp editing eye to its material. Songs are reimagined with the fresh eyes and ears of musicians who haven’t played those songs in ages and now attack them with new vigor. Then of course there is the dreaded third option, that they’ve become washed up has-beens, but that is so awful it doesn’t bear thinking about. Fortunately it did not apply to last night.
If you were going to pick a place to launch the Unicorns’ reunion tour, the Forum was probably not near the top of your list. Or near the bottom. But life never fails to keep you guessing, and the Unicorns’ first show back was at that giant arena and former home of the Lakers. But hey, what better place to be newly reborn than the place that was just reborn itself? After a 60 million dollar facelift, it was looking fresh as a daisy or more accurately dark and slithery as David Lynch’s favorite movie theater. Gone were the brown and orange seats and old Laker banners. In its place were dark maroon movie seats, glowing golden staircases that stretched to the ceiling, and oddly enough concession workers walking up and down the aisles selling water. Old habits die hard, one can only suppose. Given the formidable combination of Friday night rush hour, the labyrinthine Forum parking lot, and the set time of 7:30PM, opening for Arcade Fire’s opening act, the Unicorns didn’t do half bad for themselves. The crowd in the stands was sparse, but the pit was five rows thick when they began their set. The band knew who its audience was and was savvy enough to address both factions before even going on stage. They opened with a video montage of five fans telling the camera how much they missed the Unicorns, clearly reading from a script that got more and more garbled as the video went on like a game of telephone. It was then followed by a request to tweet about the Unicorns followed by fake twitter posts about how much everyone wanted to see Arcade Fire. Bases covered.
The Unicorns strolled on stage and launched into “I Don’t Wanna Die.” Clad in bright colors, Nick Thorburn, Alden Penner, and Jamie Thompson looked as comfortable together as if they had secretly never broken up. Their brand of fast paced spaceship pop filled the arena in short bursts, like being hit in the face with a water balloon stuffed full of fragments of other people’s dreams. The audience was delighted to have them back and yelped with joy when old favorites like “Tuff Ghost,” “Ghost Mountain,” and “The Clap” came on. If their dancing is anything to go by the Unicorns were also excited to be back. Thornburn and Penner bounced around the stage, hopping from one foot to the other, occasionally grabbing a new instrument or switching microphones. It generally appeared like they were full of helium and had a hard time weighing themselves down.
“This is our first show in eighteen years,” Thorburn announced between songs. “It’s a real treat to be in Inglewood where Magic did his thing.” There were no flashy lights or banners during the set, just three dudes with a bunch of fantastically strange music and a boatload of charisma. Between songs, the Unicorns lamented the fact that their parents couldn’t be there, proposed a fight between the mayor of Inglewood and the mayor of Hermosa Beach, and announced that their favorite instrument is the electric zither. By the time the closing number “I Was Born (A Unicorn)” came, everyone was on their side. Even the diehard Arcade Fire fans who were pressed up against the stage like sardines started wiggling along. Six dates hardly seem fair.
The Unicorns Tour Dates:
8/01 Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum*
8/02 Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum*
8/22 Brooklyn, NY @ Barclay’s Center*
8/23 Brooklyn, NY @ Barclay’s Center*
8/24 Brooklyn, NY @ Barclay’s Center*
9/21 POP Montreal | Montreal, QC @ Metropolis Theatre
* w/ Arcade Fire & Dan Deacon