Three weeks ago, for the Love Issue. Their ability to create love songs that are just as sexy as they are heart–wrenching is an ability I admire in singer Mike Milosh and his excellent band. On Feb. 27, I got the chance to see Rhye perform at Union Transfer, an evening which I was eager to experience. I was curious how Rhye translated their precision–cut riffs and falsetto portamentos into their live performances. After a nearly two–hour set that felt like a closed moment of transcendence, I became a mess of love–based emotions that I still carry with me as I write this article.
As the band walked on stage, Mike Milosh, the frontman, walked slowly up to the mic, garbed in a loosely unbuttoned flannel and flood pants protecting small brown slippers. His signature, silky alto voice immediately consumed the room. As I looked around, the couples in the room grabbed one another by the hip, swaying with their eyes closed as they were overtaken by the romance of his demeanor. Though much of it slurs together, often difficult to comprehend, the meaning of his lyrics is transmitted through the mood Rhye creates on stage. As the afterglow of stage lights looms over the crowd of lovers, one can feel only an aura of warmth as Milosh lets each word hang for a moment and quickly flutter away after each line.
To acknowledge that Rhye would be nothing without Milosh is a false statement. Never before have I seen a frontman rely so heavily on his band to create the mood he flawlessly sets on stage. With a six–piece band by his side, each individual musician was able to showcase their immense talents. The violinist attenuated the rings of Milosh’s high notes while the bassist never let go of the funk. Though Milosh’s voice is unique, it's nothing without his band, and it's clear that he knows it. To see a frontman so cooperative with his partners on stage was a humbling experience, especially during a time in music where the term "artist" is used more than "band" when talking about favorites. Rhye is a perfect example of a highly–experienced group of musicians jamming out together with rigor and ease.
“How do I bring myself back down to this mortal plane?” I hear from a girl unable to open her eyes as she's overcome by Rhye’s melodies. Nothing on stage is sharp, as the band moves effortlessly from vocals, to drums, to keys, each moment a quick lapse in time that passes as quickly as it comes. It is difficult to remember certain moments within the set, as it all blurs together into one long slow dance. As Milosh mumbles sensually “Such a waste I’m waiting out in this place,” his feelings of loneliness and regret fill the concert hall with tear–filled eyes, each audience member hoping he will be able to make it through the song. Rarely have I seen so many people physically entranced by a band. It was as if it had us under its thumb, with each note creating a different sense of romanticism that resonates so deeply in all of us. The room of men in their late twenties dressed in beanies and glasses like my own, meshed with their similarly dressed lovers, had fallen in–love, not necessarily with the band, but with the moment in time the band had created for us.
When the set came to a close, fans yearned for Rhye to play their most funky/upbeat hit “Phoenix,” but it opted for a hushed end to the night with “Song For You.” The band tended to do that a lot, opting for the down–tempo, knowing the pull it had over the audience. Even as many craved the jamminess of its funk, they all smoothly phase–shifted into a feeling of higher existence, as they let the light piano keys, fluttering guitar notes, and heavenly string section carry them there.
As the lights came on, it took a moment to adjust. What had we all just experienced? What was this feeling of neoteric love we felt stitched into our chest? Had two hours truly passed? The confusion was not one of dislike, but rather a difficulty in acknowledging how we fell into this haze. Rhye had left, but the feelings it had embedded in its audience would remain. With this, we floated out onto the twilight of the Philadelphia streets, our amorousness now eternally connected to a group of seven musicians.