Playing his sold-out show at St. Paul’s historic Palace Theatre — which was built just over a hundred years ago as a vaudeville theatre in the heart of the city, and was recently renovated into a concert venue — Garrett Borns of the indie pop sensation BØRNS paused his lively set to reflect.
“If these walls could talk, you know?” He smiled at the Minnesotans around him. “It feels so good to play here, even with all that cold stuff outside.”
On Thursday night, BØRNS’ “Sweet Dreams” tour brought him, and openers Charlotte Cardin and Mikky Ekko to the Twin Cities to promote his new album Blue Madonna. Though released less than a month ago, the audience had no trouble wailing along to every word of Borns’ lyrics.
His openers also drew in quite a crowd. Ekko’s hit “Stay,” usually a duet with Rihanna, brought a particular air of excitement to the old venue that foreshadowed the exuberance that the main performers’ dance hits would soon conjure.
From behind her glowing keyboard, Cardin kept that feeling alive through her set, which culminated with her well-known “Main Girl.”
Before too long, with a packed pit and every balcony seat filled, the instantly-recognizable synth beat of Blue Madonna’s first song, “God Save Our Young Blood” (featuring Lana Del Rey on the recorded version) reverberated off the Palace’s century-old ceilings.
Then, Garrett Borns appeared, surrounded by his band of drum, keyboard and guitar players and a striking design of brightly-colored lights. Borns’ shoulder-length hair whipped around as he danced across the stage, frequently twirling and pointing the microphone at his audience.
The band played the entirety of Blue Madonna straight through, with occasional pauses to allow the frontman to address the fans, thank his openers and comment on the aforementioned “cold stuff” Monday’s storm brought.
The combination of the volume from the band and the obvious thrill Borns felt in performing made the album’s overall impact much stronger live than on the record; over a speaker, the flat, equal volume each layer holds takes away from the dance-inducing energy that put BØRNS on the map with their first album, Dopamine.
And after briefly leaving the stage following the album’s final track, appropriately titled “Bye-Bye, Darling,” BØRNS returned to some of their older numbers. First, paying homage to his brief solo career, Borns sang his single “Seeing Stars” under a single spotlight. This tribute was a welcoming transition into Dopamine. Released in 2015, the album reached the second spot on Billboard’s top alternative and top rock albums of that year, led by “10,000 Emerald Pearls,” its first single, first track and the first song to grace the Palace.
With Borns playing the guitar himself for the first time all night, the band played standbys “American Money,” “Past Lives” and “Holy Ghost” to the masses, at their highest energy of the night. “Past Lives” drew a particularly loud response from the crowd that echoed in tandem with the chords of “Holy Ghost.” Borns then thanked the St. Paul audience for the final time, willing them to “give this last number all you’ve got.”
With that, the band played “Electric Love,” the most famous song in their repertoire. Instead of holding the microphone to the audience, Borns hoisted up the entire mic stand, dropping the mic in the process — but everyone was having too good a time to care.
If those walls could talk, they’d speak of Thursday as a triumph of the power of live music.