A large portion of their success and appeal comes from the dominating stage presence of the leather jacket-clad Mary, who oscillated between restrained intensity and pseudo-disco hip shaking and head banging. The latter was best exemplified by highlight “Hurt Me” from 2009’s She’s So Hard EP, as Mary struck a power stance and emphatically swung her arm in a slow circle as Kaloper’s jittery floor tom/snare tradeoff gradually melded into Lockwood’s bassy attack of sixteenth notes. The song also exemplifies the band’s overall sound quite well, blending subdued piano atmospherics with an intensified template based upon Kate Bush circa “Running Up That Hill” and a wide swath of U2’s now classic aesthetics. The crowd was exceptionally receptive to Mary’s particular type of swagger (yes, she has swagger) throughout the night, offering up joyful whoops and singing along faithfully to a surprisingly large number of songs; she is by far one of the most captivating musicians I’ve seen in the last few years. If Mary’s incredibly striking vocals provide the most obvious outlet for the music, Kaloper is the group’s secret weapon. As a drummer myself, I’m consistently impressed with the often absurd complexity of the parts with which Kaloper tortures himself—nearly every song features a flourish of hands, pained grimace, and flood of sweat. Coming back for the encore, Mary laughed as she told the crowd, “Somehow Nick has a bleeding neck—that’s pretty fucking metal.”
The “metal” comparison isn’t nearly as silly when one considers the epic, thrashing heights reached by tracks like “Dark Storm” and single “Endless Summer,” whose opening guitar wails trigger ever-increasing waves of ferocity. The band does tend to remain in John Hughes territory more often than not before reaching such crescendos, as demonstrated in “Endless Highway” (which Lockwood dedicated to his uncle who had just completed the Boston Marathon) and “Rosebud,” which sounds like a lost 80s prom anthem in all the best possible ways. The Jezabels certainly have their collective eye on breaking through to the mainstream as demonstrated by “Try Colour,” a song that almost demands an opening spot for Coldplay’s next world tour. They’re moody without being unapproachable, widely appealing without being saccharine, and catchy without being predictable. With such a sophisticated sound and engaging live show—not to mention enough singles and single-worthy tracks to fill a greatest hits collection—it might not be long before The Jezabels take stadiums prisoner by themselves.