Before talking about the Drive Tour’s stop at Brighton Music Hall on Sunday night, there's a few things that should be clarified.
First off, putting together a tour of the bands featured on the soundtrack to last year’s atmospheric LA-based movie thriller “Drive” isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Composer Cliff Martinez wrote and performed 14 of the album’s 19 tracks as moody, minimalist electronica, yet he is nowhere to be seen in the lineup; instead, there’s French band Anoraak, included here despite not appearing on the soundtrack. Meanwhile, the other two bands, Electric Youth and College, share their single song credit on the album, bringing the grand total of songs from the “Drive” soundtrack performed on the Drive Tour to exactly one: the woozy synth pop cut “A Real Hero.”
Even the big moment itself, when Electric Youth’s Bronwyn Griffin joined College onstage to do the song, felt a bit insecure with itself in context. With the single’s plain black cover projected behind them, College (David Grellier) cued up the track — the first of his set — with minimal fuss, while Griffin’s voice repeated the song’s earnest refrain in a dreamy lilt; no frills, no extended outro, nothing. By the time it was over, Grellier looked pleased to be unburdened by Ryan Gosling’s long shadow, and the extremely short “Drive” portion of the Drive Tour was over for the night.
That still left a few hours of show to get through, and all three bands, most notably Anoraak (the stage name of Frédéric Rivière), took advantage of the audience which the movie helped them earn, regardless of how fragile the ties may have been. The French band’s brand of ’80s synth-soaked pop — think Girogio Moroder spiked with some M83 and hints of Sega Genesis game music — is probably a bit too bright and bouncy for the somber sepia-hued outlook of “Drive,” but it doesn’t hurt they have a song called “Nightdrive With You” that feels like something Gosling could ride out to. For its first-ever Boston performance, the band kept things quick and punchy: Both “Can’t Stop” and “You Taste Like Cherry” share a seductive groove despite their cringe-inducing lyrics.
And if they make a “Drive” sequel, College made a good case for getting the job to score it. The French producer is equally steeped in ’80s influences, but much less in love with its radio pop leanings. His textural beats, which rumbled along under a thick bass slap that would make John Carpenter proud until after midnight, have the dark, nuanced feel of the movie. Or, like the tour itself, maybe they would be just close enough to work.
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