Blood Orange Brings 'Cupid Deluxe' to Life In Brooklyn

Tawni Bannister, Billboard
Blood Orange

Rare performance of new album included guests like Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth, Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, and Queens rapper Despot.

An elbow-to-elbow crowd at Brooklyn's tiny 285 Kent watched Blood Orange's fantastic new album "Cupid Deluxe" come to life last night (Nov. 15). 

Last summer, band leader Dev Hynes swung by Billboard's New York office on his skateboard to play unmixed album cuts for several interns. It was a good-natured, power-to-the-people move from Hynes, whose recent career moves have been marked by making genuine connections with his audience. Hynes has done little press lately, leaving the sold out Brooklyn show as a prime opportunity to let the album (out Nov. 18 on Domino) speak for itself. Hynes wrangled "Cupid Deluxe's" NYC-based list of indie stars together to perform their parts, a power move only a master connector like he could pull of, and one in an era of sprawling album collaborations that doesn't happen too often. Chairlift's Caroline Polachek brought her graceful vocals to album (and set) opener "Chamakay," Dirty Projectors' virtuoso Dave Longstreth sounded his most soulful in opening "No Right Thing," and Queens rapper Despot turned the affair, for a minute or so, into a Def Jux-branded hip-hop show as he delivered his verse from "Clipped On." Hynes' girlfriend, Friends front woman Samantha Urbani, injected her vocals throughout the performance, just as she does across "Cupid Deluxe," further giving the stage a communal, almost family-centric vibe. Hynes and Urbani embraced many times throughout the performance. 

Given Hynes' popularity in New York City, he could have chosen a larger venue like Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg or Manhattan's Bowery Ballroom for the album release show, but instead chose to keep the night close to the underground – at a small venue that looks like an abandoned factory from the outside.

Much of "Cupid Deluxe" is dedicated to the struggle of New York's LGBT community. "Uncle Ace," for instance, references transient youths taking refuge on the subway. For an artist who tries to connect to the downtrodden and disenfranchised in his music, the intimate setting was fitting. 285 Kent has never been known for excellent sound quality, though the smoothness of Blood Orange's performance did its part to balance things out. Blaring saxophone echoed the LP's glossy studio feel in spots. Hynes' vocals, when they needed to, triumphed through the venue's rickety soundsystem. There were even times when Hynes grabbed the guitar reminded the crowd of his shredding ability, an attribute more at the center of past projects Test Icicles and Lightspeed Champion that's been forced to the sidelines for Blood Orange. 

Hynes and his ensemble left the stage after performing album closer "Time Will Tell" to pleas and chants for an encore, though it wouldn't come. The statement had been made. Blood Orange has so far announced no plans to tour behind the album, and given the special guests assembled for the evening, those who'd managed to find their way inside 285 Kent had witnessed a rare first-hand glimpse of one of the year's standout records.