Angst-fueled lullabies. These are three words one might use to describe the sound of MS MR. Not that the band’s music will put you to sleep — quite the contrary. Tucked in beneath a blanket of poppy-sweet soundscapes is a fiery spirit.
Fans were disappointed last month when MS MR had to cancel its April 9 show at the Gothic “due to band illness,” as it tweeted out that night; apparently touring drummer Zach Nicita was sick. But all was forgiven on Wednesday as MS MR had the crowd moving, shaking and dancing along to their one-hour set at the Ogden Theatre.
“We really, really like Denver. And we were so bummed, as many of you were, to cancel the show last month,” music maker Max Hershenow said between songs. “None of us are throwing up tonight, so we’re all good. ZACH.”
The indie/electro-pop duo from New York is comprised of producer and keyboardist Hershenow and vocalist Lizzy Plapinger, a tall, slender woman with a huge set of lungs. Along for the ride were Nicita and David Lizmi on bass. A barrage of bass feedback kicked off the night as MS MR moved into the second track of its debut album “Secondhand Rapture.” Here the audience got its first taste of Plapinger’s sweet-and-salty vocals. Bathed primarily in black and white, the stage was adorned with a giant, sparkly striped monochrome “M” flag. To match the visuals on stage, Hershenow wore a black short-sleeved T-shirt with black-and-white speckled leggings and white platform shoes. Plapinger wore an Adidas track suit. The only color showing was her dyed magenta hair.
The chemistry between the songwriting duo is palpable. During “Fantasy,” the fourth song of the evening, Hershenow stepped away from the keys to dance with Plapinger, doing near-pirouettes across the stage in his humongous shoes. MS MR’s dozen studio recordings translate well live, where the band brings added energy and aggression to the songs.
A highlight of the evening was a superb cover of Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” There was a fan in attendance with an Arctic Monkeys T-shirt (black and white, no less), and the band took notice. Plapinger asked him if the cover was worthy — he quietly nodded in agreement.
“Everyone here is amazing and kind and warm, and it’s just a ***king treat every time we’re here,” Plapinger said. Later, the band did a cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean.”
“Now we’re going to play a quiet one, so be quiet,” Hershenow said about halfway through the set before he and Plapinger shifted gears for a “love song” — a duet of “This Isn’t Control.”
Immediately after the ballad, he introduced their latest single “Think of You,” urging the crowd to channel their angst and inner Alanis Morissette. This was the peak of their performance, taking their energy and aggression to a new height.
MS MR ended their set with “Hurricane,” their first single. “We saved a good one for last,” Hershenow said. “This is our favorite song, and we’re not lying. We’re not a lying band.” Based on feedback from the crowd, it was their favorite, too.
Steve Shultz is a community journalist at The Denver Post and a new contributor to Reverb.