Unknown Mortal Orchestra's set at the Roseland was a hometown show of the highest order.
There's a hedonistic spirit that pervades UMO's music, but on albums, that hedonism is colored with a shade of melancholy. Live, the band comes ready to celebrate. The May 9 Roseland show was a particularly auspicious occasion—the birthday of drummer Kody Nielson, who is frontman Ruban Nielson's brother. During the encore, Kody was presented with a cake and serenaded with "Happy Birthday" by the packed, sweaty audience.
In tights underneath shorts emblazoned with tigers, the other Nielson looked as if he was about to participate in some sort of LSD jiu-jitsu tournament. "I don't think you guys get how drunk I am," Ruban mentioned more than once with the ear-to-ear smile of a performer who knows he's connecting with his audience.
One of Ruban's biggest influences is Prince, and with each Unknown Mortal Orchestra record and tour, he's proving himself to be a sort of indie-rock Purple One, who genre-hops with a dexterity that few others possess.
New additions to the live repertoire from the just-released Sex & Food like "Hunnybee" were executed with joyous and explosive aplomb. "Not in Love We're Just High" found Ruban in the middle of the audience doing his best Dionysus impersonation while he was engulfed by his fervent followers but somehow still made it up to the balcony.
Loose but never sloppy, UMO classics like the sensuous, psychedelic R&B "So Good at Being in Trouble" and throbbing funk of "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" were played with more ease and confidence than ever.
As an act that seems to reach a new peak with each record and tour, Unknown Mortal Orchestra's biggest problem going forward might be figuring out how to fit so many beloved songs into each night's set list.