Those walking into the Robert Delong show had the unique experience of being serenaded by Jethro Tull as they entered. That’s right—Old National Center hosted two back-to-back shows on Friday night, with DeLong’s set kicking off at a whopping 11:00. The idea of a one-man band may have raised some eyebrows, considering how rare they are, even in the dance-pop scene. Adding the element of live vocals rather than simply mixing other songs made DeLong one busy man, and I’m still not 100% sure how exactly he pulled off that much energy (although the skunky smoke cloud wafting from the crowd was some indication). DeLong whipped the crowd at the Deluxe into nothing short of a dance party, and made me once again feel like I know nothing about technology.
Indiana native Jason Aaron Coons started off the night, and proved to be exactly what the crowd needed to get pumped up. The best way to describe his sound and stage presence is just fun. He also turned out to be a regular comedian, and when the audience wasn’t dancing or singing, they were laughing with him. Joined by very, VERY Indiana native (as in, she went to high school with me) Micah Jewel, JAC solicited an unusually enthusiastic response from the Deluxe.
When those unfamiliar with DeLong’s stage presence saw the setup of the stage, they were likely very intrigued. The stage, lined up with two drum sets on either side of a giant keyboard and synth set, including a small steering wheel and joystick contraption. It looked like it easily could have accommodated two if not three performers, which was logical, because he couldn’t possibly do everything, could he? Yet, do everything, he did.
Bouncing back from instrument to instrument, section to section, and one side of the stage to the other was entirely mesmerizing—or it would have been, if everyone there wasn’t busy dancing. It was one of those mind-boggling moments where you just can’t believe a person is capable of doing all these things. I’d always thought a DJ set was a DJ set, and never really understood they hype behind them, but DeLong brought a whole new technique to the stage. Watching him sing while drumming, work pedals along with keys, and wave a Wii remote to execute various vocal effects was entirely fascinating to watch. He achieved he repetitive voice clips you hear in his records by recording what he was saying, and mixing the clips into the music he was playing, which was especially impressive to me. I can’t even get my webcam to work.
Speaking of webcams, one of the coolest elements of his set was the screen behind him. Trippy in every sense of the word, it often synced from the cameras that were capturing the performance live from his various instruments. The audience was also broadcasted onto the screen when he waved a GoPro over them. Even audience members in the back who couldn’t see got a front-row view.
The music itself was, of course, on point. DeLong stayed pretty true to his recorded tracks, personalizing and playing with the sounds in between the songs. His sound is sassy and empowering, which is especially fun coming from a white guy. He received an entire back-up chorus during songs like “Don’t Wait Up,” “Jealousy,” and of course, “Long Way Down.”
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t have all that spectacular of expectations of DeLong’s set, but I soon realized it was going to be one of the best shows I’ll see this year. It seemed as though not a lot of people knew what to expect, which could account for the less-than-packed room, but I’m sincerely hoping those who have the opportunity to see this tour read this and head out to see him, because he’s really an outstanding performer. His fun sound and whimsical instruments added up to create a light-hearted environment, and the crowd was fantastic. If you’re looking for a fun night, you’ll find it at a Robert DeLong show.