Can an electronic dance music party double as a sing-along pop music concert? Can a young novice British group on its first tour of big American concert halls make the hopelessly outdated Roy Wilkins Auditorium sound halfway decent? And can a cubicle-like work-top station pass for a cool concert stage prop?
Disclosure answered all those questions in the affirmative Tuesday night at St. Paul's cavernous auditorium, but with a few asterisks.
The band of brothers — clean-cut Reigate, England, natives Guy and Howard Lawrence — are enjoying pop crossover success after helping buoy "Stay With Me" hitmaker Sam Smith's career when he sang on their 2013 single "Latch." The duo's new album, "Caracal," should easily become this year's biggest dance record, what with Smith, Lorde, the Weeknd and Miguel for guest singers.
Of course, one of the known caveats going into Tuesday's breezy 90-minute performance was the fact that none of those all-star vocalists were there in person. Instead, the 3,200 or so fans in attendance — more J. Crew and American Apparel wearers than neon-fur-clad, pacifier-sucking EDM ravers — sung along to recorded vocals throughout the concert. And to Disclosure's credit, they didn't seem to have any problem with that.
Similarly, the Lawrence brothers didn't have the trouble a lot of rock bands have with Wilkins Auditorium's abysmal acoustics. It's a lot easier to get a good sonic balance when a lot of the music is coming off a laptop.
Taken in the context of electronic dance music, though, Disclosure's set boasted a lot more live elements than other acts of that ilk. Each of the Lawrences excitedly whirled around their wraparound work stands to play keyboards, drums and electronic gear. They also strapped on electric six-string and bass guitars at various intervals — even climbing atop a stage riser with those instruments during "Nocturnal" like the British disco answer to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
The duo also livened things up with a Kiss-worthy light show and video-screen backdrop. Their electro-rap romp "Bang That," for instance, was accompanied by artfully designed, linear colored patterns, while "When a Fire Starts to Burn" came with a rather clever wall of flaming-red imagery.
Oh, and the brothers did sing some, too — and not too shabbily, especially in one of the more house-music-tinged new tunes, "Echoes." They also brought out two very capable guest singers toward set's end: New York neo-soul seductress Lion Babe (Jillian Hervey) delivered a fiery, funky "Hourglass," then smooth London bellower Brendan Riley kicked off the encore with a soulful "Moving Mountains."
Oddly, though, that was it for the guests. Just one song apiece. Then it was back to Smith's recorded vocals for the finale "Latch," a song Riley could have dutifully delivered. Not that the fans had any trouble handling that one themselves.