The man behind Rhye is even better live

Rhye will play a sold out World Cafe Live on 4/20.
Rhye will play a sold out World Cafe Live on 4/20.
Posted: April 23, 2013

Rhye arrived on the music scene mysteriously in early 2012, when a few tracks appeared under a cloak of anonymity. The songs were very sexy, sultry, and hovered among quiet-storm R&B, down-tempo electronica, and gently orchestral pop. The voice, a swooning, gentle alto, immediately called to mind Sade. So it surprised many that the singer turned out to be a man, Toronto's Mike Milosh, and Rhye turned out to be his collaboration with Denmark's Robin Braun.

Rhye's debut album, Woman, came out in March, and it's one of the year's standout releases, a perfectly calibrated, entrancing set of eros-filled ballads. Those songs were transformed into something even more artful, spacious and transfixing Saturday night at a sold out show at World Cafe Live's upstairs room.

Braun isn't touring, so Milosh assembled a stunning five-piece band that includes a violinist and a cellist who also plays trombone. They stretched out the songs with impressive improvisational solos in a one-hour set.

"That's what happens when you have only one album: You find a great band that's really good at doing solos," Milosh said.

Those solos, however, never felt like filler. Claire Courchene's trombone turn on "Last Dance" was one show-stopper, taking the song's house music thump into parade jazz territory. Milosh even teased keyboard player Steve Taylor to draw out his electric-piano lead during "Major Minor Love," with the vocalist scat-singing, "this is the last gig on this tour so we'll keep playing."

Amid it all - the precisely articulated moments of pizzicato strings, five-part harmony vocals and finger-snaps; the quiet, meditative pauses; and the funky, propulsive rhythms - Milosh was the focal point. It was remarkable to hear that feminine, sighing voice emanate from a casually dressed, man in his 30s. He possesses a natural alto, not a falsetto, and it is quietly powerful and seductively intimate.

"We'll make it as sad as possible," Milosh said, introducing the aptly titled final song, "It's Over," from his 2006 solo album, Meme. The rapt audience was silent as the song dissolved into an a cappella coda.

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