Who knew Alan Palomo had a funky side? Maybe the songwriter and producer had cultivated some new moves in the past few years since the last time his band, Neon Indian, played Boston.
Boom! Hip thrust. Bloop! Shoulder shake.
Or maybe, just maybe, he didn’t have the right material to get down with in the first place.
In 2015, Palomo finally executed the inevitable: A merger between the electronics of Neon Indian with the funkier, more upbeat side project, VEGA. The result was Neon Indian’s third album, VEGA INTL. Night School — a natural evolution from the chillwave of the band’s previous albums into what could be considered solidly funkier territory: Let’s call it Netflix and chillwave.
The greatest thing about Neon Indian’s current tour was not that the material was already good (it is) but that the live performances at the Paradise Rock Club on Thursday (January 28) made the songs even better. This included Palomo’s own choreography.
If you were to isolate the way Palomo rhythmically shook his shoulders back and forth during Neon Indian’s show, it would seem he was beholden to the sex appeal of High School Musical 2 choreography. But, when you combine his shoulders, slinking falsetto, and background stage visuals that were generated by the band’s own movements — imagine part Windows Media Player screensaver visualizer, part last weekend’s acid trip but with Tetris blocks — it was enough to get anyone hot. The whole experience bumped harder than Morris Day, but without the braggadocio; “Jungle Love,” but without the bird squawks. This was the type of night that could have set the music scene ablaze a few decades ago, led less likely by an approachable frontman named Alan, more likely by an alien named Ziggy.[Side note: This is not the first connection to be made between Neon Indian and David Bowie. In 2011, before it was in vogue (here’s looking at you Miley and Kesha) Neon Indian teamed with The Flaming Lips for an EP that included the eerily foreboding, Is David Bowie Dying? R.I.P.)
Opener “Dear Skorpio Magazine” was the perfect entrance into the Night School classroom, as an ode to the women of the eponymous Italian magazine and the perfect acknowledgement of sex in a subtle way. The night would be full of that. And if ever there were two albums that were meant to be paired together for a joint tour based on sound and concept, it would be Night School with La Roux’s Trouble in Paradise — like night is to day and hips are to shakin’.
Neon Indian’s older track “Deadbeat Summer,” from 2010’s Psychic Chasms, was another highlight. The way Neon Indian was able to rejigger the song for a live audience made so much more sense than the studio version. It was just a better song live, plain and simple. In a word: Transformative. In a few more: Release a live album, guys.
Of all of the songs Neon Indian played Thursday night, only one sounded strikingly similar to the recorded version, and that was encore song “Polish Girl” from 2011’s Era Extraña. Of course, not every live rendition needs to be a re-imagined, and “Polish Girl” reminded us how Neon Indian got here in the first place. It was a moment to be celebrated. Actually, at slightly left of center on the floor, one fan’s rally cry for “Polish Girl” was, as he roused the other nearby “young professionals” to hoist him up for some crowd-surfing action. In a night of full of raw sexual energy onstage, it was no surprise that the crowd started to get a little handsy.
During “61 Cygni Avenue,” Palomo tried to impress us with his newfound skill of playing a three-toms percussion set. Self-admittedly, he could have done better, asking all of the Berklee students in the audience — of which there were several — to not judge him too harshly. In fact, a majority of the Neon Indian band members attended Berklee at one point or another. Did that give Palomo a free pass on the toms? He himself didn’t think so. “Hey, I went to college. Majored in film. And dropped out,” he said in reply.
On-stage banter continued, too, when Palomo wondered aloud about the existence of a Boston “yacht rock” scene. “Is the band Boston considered ‘yacht rock’ — like rock music you’d listen to on a yacht?” he asked, maybe sarcastically, maybe sardonically. It was hard to tell. But one thing was certain: The man, and all of Neon Indian, could funk. Now, Jerome, could you please bring Palomo his hat?
Follow Cory Lamz on Twitter @coryhadalillamz.