Atlas Genius Proves Its Brilliance at the Rex

The band balanced hits with two ’80s covers

Atlas Genius performing at Riverside, Austin, Texas in 2013. photo: Nan Palmero.

Atlas Genius performing at Riverside, Austin, Texas in 2013. photo: Nan Palmero.

Atlas Genius, of Adelaide, South Australia, played in tune, in time, and with an energy that had them jumping around the stage Monday evening at the Rex Theater.

Frontman Keith Jeffery sang to the back rows, beamed at individual concertgoers, and whirled his guitar like a dervish. If he could have mowed the lawns of the dozens in the audience, he would have, so eager was he to please. And he and the rest of the band did just that.

More Rock, Less Synths

Atlas Genius took the stage around 9:45 p.m. Although the band is a duo in the studio, it swells to a quintet for concerts. A black banner with the group’s name in a sans-serif, white font hung behind the musicians. Stage lights projected multicolored patterns onto the far wall of the Rex.

They opened with “If So,” a single from their debut, 2013’s When It Was Now. The song epitomized their studio sound: guitar hooks sashaying alongside beats and electronic flourishes.

“Stockholm,” a single from 2015’s Inanimate Objects, their sophomore album and latest LP, followed. It mirrored the studio version until the band played the song’s rock-centric coda at fortissimo.

Other cuts, such as the fuzzy “Symptoms,” also emphasized chords over synth pops. The crowd, perhaps not expecting such a guitar-heavy show from an “indietronica” group, still danced.

Not as effective was the sing-along that Jeffery encouraged prior to Atlas Genius covering Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The band matched the ’80s hit note for note, but Jeffery sang softer, as if wanting others to carry the vocals. The audience showed its youth a bit, for few knew the words. Jeffery didn’t appear to mind and played two guitar solos.

Better was a cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).” Most everyone knew at least the chorus. Jeffery was no Pete Burns, Dead or Alive’s late frontman, but that lack of a flamboyant personality effectively drew attention away from the singer and to the verses’ discomforting desire, e.g., “I set my sights on you (And no one else will do) / And I, I’ve got to have my way now, baby.”

For “Back Seat,” Jeffery instructed the crowd to crouch and then jump on the count of four. The tune, more akin to a ballad on the album When It Was Now, then veered into another rockin’ coda.

Jeffery next introduced the band: his brother (and other permanent band member) Michael on drums; his other brother (and sometimes studio collaborator) Steven on keys; Josh Rheault on guitar, keys, and vocals; and Daniel Curcio on bass and vocals. He thanked the crowd throughout the show, and at one point said how in Adelaide they had all heard of Pittsburgh—a place of “myths and legends,” he called it—but weren’t sure if they would ever make it here. Both the audience and the band were glad they did.

The concert culminated with the one-two punch of “The Stone Mill” and “Molecules.” It ended with “Trojans,” Atlas Genius’s most well-known song. Keith Jeffery finally got his sing-along.

A Worthy Headliner, Great Openers

Openers and local quintet Nevada Color, with its pummeling guitars and drums, provided the perfect pairing to Atlas Genius. They should headline Down Under some day. Likewise to the synth-y, sludgy Faulkner, of Venice Beach, California. Keith Jeffery thanked both bands.

Speaking of openers, Atlas Genius previously performed in Pittsburgh as an opening act. They played before Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness this March at Stage AE. These Aussies make for a rollicking, danceable live show, and whether the main event or the warm-up, they deserve a full house the next time that they roll through town.

Christopher Maggio is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor and enjoys seeing live music whenever he can.