REVIEW: The Midnight recreates the ’80s at The Independent

The Midnight, Tyler Lyle

Tyler Lyle of The Midnight performs at The Independent in San Francisco on Oct. 20, 2018. Photos: Shawn Robbins.

SAN FRANCISCO — For a couple hours Saturday night, inside the walls of The Independent, The Midnight brought back the 1980s.

It wasn’t a fully authentic experience, of course. For example, the musicians were behind a MacBook Pro instead of an Apple IIe. The robotic lights and color-changing LEDs would have seemed like pure wizardry back then. The hourlong DJ set from Danny Delorean that served as an opening act would have utterly confused audiences 35 years ago.

Overall, though, it would have seemed downright familiar to someone in 1985. The light show was full of the teal and purple of an ’80s school photo; Tim McEwan was wearing a Purple Rain T-shirt and headband behind his drum machine and keyboard; there were plenty of saxophone solos. All the key elements were there in spades.

The Midnight

The Midnight performs at The Independent in San Francisco on Oct. 20, 2018.

The show opened with Carl Sagan’s reflections on the iconic Pale Blue Dot photo—not exactly expected, but Sagan is never unwelcome—and from there moved to “Wave,” from their new album, Kids. Despite the album coming out a month before the show, the crowd sang along to the chorus loudly enough it threatened to drown out actual singer Tyler Lyle.

That enthusiasm, and the singing, continued for nearly every song. And the feeling was mutual.

“This city is very special to us,” Lyle told the crowd, explaining that the band’s first ever show was at DNA Lounge, how shocked they were at the welcome they got at the time and how appropriate it is that the last show of the tour would be in the same city.

The crowd participation hit a crescendo with the band’s cover of Don Henley’s 1984 hit “The Boys of Summer.” Despite the vast majority of the crowd likely not having been born when the song originally came out, most sang along with every word—and not just the chorus; from the first word to the last, it was mass karaoke.

The Midnight

The Midnight performs at The Independent in San Francisco on Oct. 20, 2018.

Midway though the show they were joined by singer-songwriter Nikki Flores for “Jason” and “Light Years,” songs she cowrote and sang on the albums Endless Summer and Nocturnal, respectively. Her voice is fantastic and, as you would expect from a songwriter who has worked with everyone from Nas to Christina Aguilera, the songs themselves were great.

From the fast, energetic songs to slower ballads like “Lost Boy,” there was a joy to the music. The band was having fun and the audience fed off of that. Every drum machine break got applause and every saxophone solo got loud cheers. A not-insignificant number of people held inflatable saxophones aloft.

Quite a few of the bad parts of the ’80s have come back recently—rising tensions with Russia, unrest and violence in Libya, a celebrity-turned-President is instituting trickle-down economics, to name a few—so it’s good to see that some of the better parts; namely, synth music and saxophones, are coming back as well.

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