I was downtown Friday night, but it wasn’t in anticipation of celebrating the Cleveland Cavaliers moving to the NBA Finals. I ignored masculine society’s calling and my birthplace allegiance for one night to witness the super in-sync sister trio HAIM, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Euphoric drums echoed throughout EXPRESS LIVE!, insinuating the introduction to “If I Could Change Your Mind,” one of the singles off the rock band’s studio debut album, “Days Are Gone.” The mood was being set for the night, as each drum hit livened the dark concert hall and eventually led to the sisters emerging stage left from obscurity.
The eclectic sisters first got their start in music touring with their family band Rockinhaim, which did covers, but the trio decided to take on a project of their own with HAIM in 2012. An eye-opening live set at South by Southwest and the release of “Days Are Gone” in 2013 set the sisters ablaze, earning rave reviews across the board.
Drawing comparisons to great live acts of the past such as Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac and even Michael Jackson, HAIM puts on a ferocious live set. The band’s influences also stretch as far as the late Prince, who it paid a tribute to by covering “I Would Die 4 U.”
From that moment the concert’s energy really took off. Things were just getting started when Este, Danielle and Alana Haim gravitated to the center of the stage during the Prince cover to sway back and forth with their guitars in unison.
One takeaway from the experience of a live HAIM concert that you cannot fully grasp listening with headphones or through speakers is how much attention the drums demand. That can be credited to both the band’s drummer as well as nonfamilial Dash Hutton and the sister’s beat-keeping skills.
Tracks such as “The Wire,” “My Song 5” — billed by Alana as having “all the feels” — and concert closer “Falling” had drum parts that subsumed the indoor EXPRESS LIVE! facility. On a day that reached 80 degrees in late May, it would have been nice if the venue would have had the capability to move the band a few feet away to be outdoors. Nonetheless, HAIM commanded the indoor stage.
“My Song 5” set the tone for the final three songs of the night. It’s a raucous, house-party smash with dirty, sloppy horns to boot — a song I knew I had to hear and see first-person before I pass. Alana’s intense session with her drum machine, Este’s raunchy bass and Danielle’s intense vocals each drew my attention at some point throughout the four-minute epic. Upon completion, satisfaction and exhaustion commenced, but not for long.
The 11-song set ended with a fresh turn. The sisters have been debuting a batch of new songs ever since they embarked on the tour over a week ago. “Nothing’s Wrong,” the second of two tracks HAIM shared with Columbus on Friday, included a great performance by Danielle on the guitar; an outro that will have fans begging for the follow-up to “Days Are Gone” upon reaching their ears.
The encore, “Falling,” proclaimed by a man standing in front of me as the song he wants to be buried to, included more classic moments on the drums. At one point near the completion of “Falling,” a three-piece drum set was formed so the sisters could trade off solos. Alana’s skills have been brought up in the past, but all three HAIM sisters reverberated the walls of EXPRESS LIVE! with one of the most commanding group performances in rock today.
What was special about this HAIM concert — and I imagine with its other shows — is how often the spotlight was shared between Danielle, Este and Alana. It is true rock at its core and a sound that should be filling up stadiums across the country. Each member’s contributions are, at all times, equally important, which makes it hard to name a frontwoman for HAIM.
That night, the Cavaliers beat the Raptors soundly by 26 points. I obviously made the right decision seeing HAIM, but even a triple-overtime thriller might not have compared to the genuine live experience the three sisters gave to those at EXPRESS LIVE!.