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Live Review: MS MR w/ GRRL PAL @ The Triffid

(C) Tom Sue Yek

New York electro-pop duo MS MR played their debut Brisbane show on Tuesday night, and judging by the hordes of enthusiastic fans who came out to see them it won’t be their last. At around 8pm The Triffid began filling up with fans dressed in every imaginable style, from plaid shirts and head-to-toe black goth, to posh party dresses.

Perth duo GRRL PAL took to the stage at 8:15, producer Danny K rocking a t-shirt and jeans combo while vocalist Jay Le Kat glowed under the fluorescent lights in an epic two-piece floral playsuit. The lights made the perfect backdrop to the dance style of their opening number Kwler Than U. Le Kat’s smooth, airy vocals complemented the poppy synthesisers and an ideal soundtrack for her energetic dance moves.

GRRL PAL followed up a strong opening number with Suggest, creating enough sound for several tracks thanks to some complex synth work. Once again Le Kat exceeded expectations with her weightless vocal delivery as her outfit glowed in the light. Even as the music got heavier the pair kept the performance light and fun with playful stage banter. Their cover of SBTRKT’s Wildfire took the performance to another level with a dark energy, intense vocals, and heavier, faster drum beats, complete with menacing bright red stage lights.

The duo played non-stop through track after track, Le Kat jokingly remarking, “[Danny] never gives me a chance to catch my breath” – not that Danny K was taking any breathers himself. He broke a sweat during their performance of NGHT, beating complex rhythms out on the synth and the drum. GRRL PAL’s rendition of Hotline Bling was a crowd-pleaser, complete with an edgy subtropical dance rhythm. Drake’s hit song proved to be the perfect vessel for Le Kat’s sweet, yet powerful vocals.

Their closing number Dare had the most intense synthesiser opening yet, leading into a pulsing beat and catchy rhythm. Dare showed off Le Kat’s strong higher register and passionate mid-range as well as Danny K’s talent on both drums and synths. Their confidence and energy on stage made for an invigorating performance and they both left the stage covered in sweat.

(C) Tom Sue Yek

There was a half hour wait between sets but no one moved, unwilling to lose their spots close to the action. Once the stage had been stocked with at least half a dozen bottles of Mount Franklin and a stack of white towels, the audience was itching for the main act. MS MR appeared through a puff of smoke and launched into their disco anthem Reckless, taking over the stage with their boundless energy and sharp dance moves. Frontwoman Lizzy Plapinger wore an infectious smile throughout the song, looking out at the packed room in disbelief.

MS MR’s other half Max Hershenow matched Paplinger’s joy and enthusiasm, pulling out flamboyant dance moves without straying from the keyboard. The crowd adored No Guilt In Pleasure, a song about “doing anything and everything that makes you feel f**king awesome”. Thumping synth beats reverberated around the room, injecting stacks of energy into the song’s easy lyrics and catchy melodies.

The tropical dance vibe of Salty Sweet swept the crowd into a swaying rhythm to accompany Paplinger’s irresistible bluesy vocal slides. The inherent drama of the song translated seamlessly on the stage and the commitment in the performance proved more than enough to keep the audience entranced. As they played through tracks from their previous album ‘Secondhand Rapture’ it became obvious how this dynamic pair had established a loyal following before their first live Brisbane appearance.

MS MR performed their edgy dance moves with confidence during This Isn’t Control, an irresistibly catchy anthemic tune reminiscent of a Florence + the Machine power ballad. The heat in the room and the bright stage lights had them both breaking into a sweat, but the energy never died. Hershenow combined his intense stage presence with impressive single-handed keyboard skills, endlessly enthusiastic dance moves, and steady backing vocals while Plapinger belted out Aguilerian-notes and runs.

The crowd was thrilled to hear BTSK on the performance set list, with the slow jam bringing an emotional touch to the show without sacrificing the power vocals and crashing drum beats. The duo’s passion for this dramatic rock ballad showed on their faces and spread through the crowd. The show, which Plapinger lovingly described as a “group therapy session”, took a dramatic turn from resident love song BTSK to Think of You, “a song about all the assholes in the world”. It was the most passionate performance of the night and the crowd never tired of the infectiously repetitive chorus, erupting in rapturous applause as the song finished.

(C) Tom Sue Yek

The four-word tagline in How Does It Feel provided the perfect opportunity for crowd participation, with Plapinger managing to maintain perfect pitch despite the sea of fans screaming the words back at her. The pair looked genuinely thrilled by the applause at the end of the song, spurring them on through more tracks from their latest album ‘How Does It Feel’. Deep foreboding synthesisers stole the show in Wrong Victory and Tunnels, keeping the crowd shuffling from side to side even as their energy began to lag.

Hershenow’s deep harmonies were a highlight of Criminal, and the grit in Plapinger’s growls got the crowd going, so much so that one man couldn’t resist the pull towards the stage. He jumped up, started dancing, and asked for a kiss before a security guard hauled him away.

The duo kept up their intense dance moves and finished strong with the opening track from ‘How Does It Feel’, What Did You Think Would Happen. Plapinger delivered the lyrics with startling speed and precision, using every ounce of energy she had left on the final number before dropping to her knees and falling back onto the stage.

MS MR left the stage, returning almost immediately to deafening applause from the insatiable audience. Their crowd-pleasing Like A Version rendition of Miike Snow’s Genghis Khan made the perfect encore. They delivered an edgy, modern take on the song, complete with Plapinger’s note-perfect falsetto, and the crowd sang along with gusto. The first song the duo ever wrote together, Bones, was equally well-received. The epic feel of the song was reminiscent of a Florence + the Machine anthem, and the intensity of the guitar melody was all it took to send the fans in the front row into a trance.

The duo saved the best for last, leaving their breakthrough hit Hurricane until the very end of the show. Hershenow told the crowd he was ecstatic to be halfway around the world performing a song he had written with Paplinger in his New York bedroom. “Please sing along if you know the words because it’s the craziest feeling in the world,” he asked, and the crowd was more than happy to oblige. MS MR put on an impressive debut show for Brisbane fans, and it’s a safe bet that their next Australian appearance will be bigger and better.

Check out our Photo Gallery HERE and our interview with Lizzy Paplinger HERE

Written by Jess Martyn

Photos by Tom Sue Yek