While plenty of bands seem to be abandoning their guitars for synthesizers these days, there's much to be said about Ratatat, a celebrated duo from Brooklyn who seem to have found a happy medium between the two. With the aid of a touring keyboardist, the band, which plays taut instrumental electronic rock, wrapped up a two-night stand at the Paradise Rock Club with a sold-out show Monday.
Ratatat's hourlong set fared best when bassist/programmer Evan Mast and guitarist Mike Stroud synched their arsenal of sputtering beats and chords together. The band showcased songs from its three records with emphasis on this summer's sleepy "LP3." Punctuated with break beats, songs like "Loud Pipes" and "Mirando" married sinewy riffs and driving bass to the delight of the tightly packed crowd.
It wasn't until the end of the night, however, when the band played "Seventeen Years," that they got its loudest reception. The song was an electro-rock powerhouse in 2004 but had just as much command Monday night. Mast and Stroud, who for the bulk of the set had remained silent, leaned into the crowd, prompting fans to clap along to the breakdown. When they deviated from the norm, relentlessly pummeling sets of bongos on "Mi Viejo," they looked unstoppable.
During the band's downtempo numbers, fans almost looked confused, unsure of whether they should dance or nod their heads approvingly. At one point, Stroud looked out to the crowd, squinted, and shrugged - almost as if he wasn't sure, either.
For all the flak the so-called "knob-twiddlers" get, Ratatat's keyboardist, Jacob Morris, seemed to be having the most fun, pivoting back and forth in place, his lion-like mane of hair shaking with every strike of the keys.
For a band that thrives on electronics, Ratatat's only enemy Monday night was technology. The more it relied on sequencers and synthesizers, the less the band was able to improvise. Some points of the set seemed too scripted, like a rushed stage production. Some songs were calibrated to clips from '80s movies on a video projector; they flowed seamlessly but lacked a natural progression.
Openers Panther warmed up the crowd with a confounding yet danceable set of discombobulated art rock, born from a simple setup of guitar and drum.