Samantha Gongol, the beguiling vocalist for Marian Hill, crooned that “I like the whiskey with my nursery rhyme” at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Thursday. The sentiment encapsulated the tone of much of the music enjoyed by an audience of about 2,500 during the five-hour concert that featured four bands.
Marian Hill, Milky Chance and Shaed performed songs that balanced childlike whimsy with giddy intemperance. Banks & Steelz, an implausible collaboration between RZA of influential hip-hop crew the Wu-Tang Clan and Paul Banks of the successful indie-rock band Interpol, was a substantive outlier on the bill.
Milky Chance, the German ensemble that headlined “The Night the Buzz Stole XXmas,” organized by radio station 96.5 the Buzz, played more than an hour of bouncy folk-based songs that were supplemented by fitful barrages of electronica.
Clemens Rehbein’s garbled vocals caused him to sound like jam-band stalwart Dave Matthews singing a karaoke version of a hit by pop star Ariana Grande on the gleefully uncomplicated “Fairytale.” A jam propelled by an extended harmonica solo later inspired uninhibited dancing.
Marian Hill, the Philadelphia-based duo of Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd, was supplemented by saxophonist Steve Davit. The trio’s ingenious mashup of the styles of chanteuse Lena Horne and pop diva Whitney Houston was delightful. Tellingly, their outing included a smoky cover of Houston’s hit “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).”
Gongol reacted to Lloyd’s considerable technical dexterity with the theatrical awe of a magician’s assistant. The audience was partial to Davit’s efforts. The saxophonist’s slinky playing on “One Time” seduced hundreds of skeptical fans on hand to hear Milky Chance.
Shaed, a bottom-heavy synth-pop trio from Washington, D.C., opened the show. Vocalist Chelsea Lee crooned frothy ditties and made an awkward and thankfully brief stab at rapping as her band mates triggered preprogrammed beats and added keyboard and percussion accents. The flirtation with hip-hop was especially ill-advised because Shaed’s set was followed by an appearance by a rap legend.
Although RZA stepped from behind his keyboards to rap ferociously on “Sword in the Stone,” Banks & Steelz’s noble experiment was often less than the sum of its considerable parts.
After he and RZA couldn’t agree on the proper key of the song, Banks performed a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Nikes” by himself. Perhaps because it was the only unscripted incident of the evening, Banks’ shaky effort provided the concert’s most affecting moment.