In review: the intimidatingly cool Roosevelt doesn’t fail to deliver at Astra Kulturhaus

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Viersen’s wunderkind Marius Lauber (or rather his alter ego Roosevelt) warms us up on a dreary Wednesday evening with his unique take on indie-electronica.

His love affair with the humble synthesiser is displayed for all to see, and we’re glad to have been witness to it.

On a miserably rainy evening at Astra Kulturhaus, we have a bit of respite in the form of Roosevelt’s packed out show as part of his Young Romance tour. Once we’ve somehow managed to squeeze past the hordes of eager indie-nuts who have turned up to see him play, we’re treated to an opening set by Moglii, and considering that he’s just the support act, we have high hopes for the evening. His set is executed perfectly – there’s no need for superfluous staging or elaborate light shows, as the producer/magician lets his work speak for itself. It’s brilliantly inventive – Moglii carefully curates an atmosphere of anticipation, thankfully eschewing the excessively long build-ups and disappointing drops which seem to have become a staple of the electronic scene over the past few years. Thumbs up from us!

Roosevelt, of course, does not fail to deliver. From the moment he steps on stage, he brings his own brand of nonchalant coolness tot he forefront – plus his synth setup would make even the most uninterested gearhead raise an eyebrow. He immediately dives into a charismatic rendition of a number of his hits; his bittersweet ode to what once was Yr Love hits the nail on the head, as do fiery interpretations of Illusions and Lucia. His memorable performance of Getaway is tinged with a strange sort of sadness, and we’ve been humming it ever since.

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He’s painfully cooler than us, without seeming at all obnoxious or arrogant – he seems reserved, but happy to be there. From a technical perspective, the show is A+, with not a single bum note or dodgy synth texture to be seen. It’s clear from the outset that this is someone who knows his craft inside out, which isn’t something that happens overnight. Nobody can deny that this is an obvious labour of love for Lauber – he’s clearly worked very, very hard on this record, and his performance reflects that.

The mellow and stripped back Better Days is a real highlight – the late summer evening vibes it conjoures up are exquisite, resulting in a strange kind of peaceful melancholy, which wasn’t what we expected. Another high point is an eclectic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere, which went down a storm with an otherwise fairly placid audience. It’s a charismatic and thoroughly enjoyable set, even though by the halfway point of his show, I feel the kick drum in my actual bones.

Despite his best efforts, Lauber struggles with a fairly low-energy crowd, whose concentration (or lack of) seems to waver during the last few songs. It’s a shame, and doesn’t seem to stem from a lacklustre or technically unskilled performance on his part – rather, it would appear that on this occasion, the audience are more interested in scrolling through their Instagram feed and/or checking in on Facebook. It’s unfortunate, as, like a yawn, such moods are somewhat contagious, and once one person decides that this kind of behaviour isn’t wildly disrespectful to the artist, others will follow suit. As someone who’s worked in music journalism for a while, this reviewer isn’t hugely surprised by such an attitude (in a culture of instant gratification, it’s almost impossible to avoid and I’m starting to make my peace with that) – but it’s depressing to say the least, and particularly bad at this show.

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Ultimately, it was a solid performance – Roosevelt seems completely at home on the stage, with a commanding energy and stage presence which demands attention. He seemed endearingly grateful to be there, and we’d definitely be queueing up to see him again. Just with a different crowd next time.

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