Frontman Dave Davison’s modestly charming commentary on the ability to play outside after 1 a.m. set the mood for a pleasant evening. He was right: Playing outside after midnight is largely unheard of around the country, especially in Chicago, from which most of the members of Maps & Atlases hail. With the very first song, the Midwestern crew established themselves as technically masterful yet not overly serious. Their new album, Beware and Be Grateful, has received mixed reviews because of its shift toward catchier hooks and away from calculated technicality.
The waif-like singer’s bellowing, nasal voice combined with catchy, meticulously arranged instrumentation set this group apart from other math-rock bands. Davison’s crisp croon never wavered or broke, but was precise and enveloping with a touch of sweet vulnerability. His voice sounded best while singing, “I don’t think there is a sound that I hate more than the sound of your voice, when you say that you don’t love me anymore,” over the low reverb of “The Charm,” from their first full-length album, Perch Patchwork. That song stands out because of its intense, burgeoning percussion, the only sound heard underneath Davison’s vocals. Other notable songs included “Pigeon” and single “Solid Ground,” both from the same album. A surprising addition to the set list was a straightforward cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Although enjoyable, such an uninventive take on the classic was lost on the audience.
While their new material is considered to be “poppier,” songs such as “Fever” and “Winter” were very well-received. After this performance, the relatively obscure Maps & Atlases might get some much-deserved airplay. ★★★☆☆