music journalist since 1992 teacher since 2004 blogger since 2012 podcaster since 2020
It may have been uncharacteristically dull and rainy night in Los Angeles, but it was all rainbows and sparkles inside the El Rey with Radio Dept. The Swedish trio tour stateside with the same frequency as its album releases—which means not very often at all. This could very well have been the main contributing factor to the standing room only attendance for the show at the El Rey Theatre.
The threesome overrode its drab looking stage presence—which matched the rare rain outside—and lack of interaction with the crowd with the absolutely gorgeous take on the shoegazer sound it has adapted with distinction. Tumbling from one song to another, drawing from its 10-year-strong arsenal, numbers from the latest full-length, Clinging To A Scheme, were met with the most boisterous response from the primed crowd. The chimes of “David” tinkled into the moody “Domestic Scene” shifted into the Style Council-esque “Haven’s On Fire” creating a sing-along from the crowd who made up for their group’s shyness with their exuberant enthusiasm.
At one point, frontman Johan Duncanson left the stage in an unexpected move to perform “Never Follow Suit” from inside the crowd. This got the audience into such frenzy, one was almost afraid for his safety. This excitement seems to not affect Radio Dept. in the least. The group performed as they would in a rehearsal space, reacting to the roars from the audience sporadically with the odd “thank you” and not much else. Radio Dept.’s concentration is probably focused on the excessive layers of noise it is creating considering there are only three of them. But as the night wound down and members of the group exited the stage, the sound continued, which begs the question: How much of the show was actually played live?
The brief, hour-long set was kept to in the strictest of Scandinavian styles. The encore was tacked on as a seeming afterthought and ended with an abrupt curtain drop that left the frothing crowd mid-applause.