The Knocks are the quintessential example of music blog darlings-turned-pop tastemakers. Since 2010, the duo of Ben "B-Roc" Ruttner and James "JPatt" Patterson have released countless remixes, singles, and EPs, finally culminating with their long-awaited debut album, 55, in 2016. But they’re not ones to rest on their laurels. Hot off a recent European arena tour opening for Justin Beiber, The Knocks have a new EP out, Testify, and are producing songs on the upcoming Carly Rae Jepsen and Wyclef Jean albums. On what now seems to be an annual tradition, they once again sold out the 9:30 Club for a career-spanning set. While their sound has slowly evolved, the mission remained the same: to get people of all backgrounds to come together and dance
Priding themselves on their production, The Knocks are not ones to just press play and let the lasers and pre-recorded tracks do the heavy lifting at shows. Like their peers Odesza and Disclosure, they performed as much live instrumentation as their two-man setup of keyboards, percussion, and drum pads allowed them. JPatt substituted his own vocals in the absence of Wyclef Jean on “Kiss the Sky” and sang on older cut “Dancing With The DJ” in addition to stepping away from the keys to play bass guitar closer to the masses. Meanwhile, B-Roc’s comfort zone was clearly on percussion, hitting drum pads, toms, and cymbals positioned around their army of music hardware. It’s not a complete replacement, especially since it was hard at times to determine what parts of the song were actually being played live, but it works. Aided by the impressive laser show, each song was a sing-along that reminded fans just how talented they are in making synth-pop earworms that belong on the radio.
The performance had the feel of an EDM show with the workmanship of a live set, with something for everyone, from the early disco-house sounds of “Dancing With The DJ” to the sun-drenched “Classic” and the top 40-friendly recent release “HEAT”. It’s been a long time since the blog-buzz days of The Knocks, but they haven’t forgotten their roots. If their latest EP is any indicator, they’ll continue to bring those sounds to the masses in new ways, and just as reliably, the masses will continue to flock to a Knocks show.