Wet gets emotions running at El Rey gig

There are few things as powerful as Kelly Zutrau’s booming voice — and that’s something fans found out Tuesday night at the El Rey Theatre when Brooklyn outfit Wet took the stage.

Mixing hopelessness and hopefulness has been Wet’s modus operandi since they burst on the scene with their debut full-length album Don’t You in 2016. They’re often referred to as a synthpop group but really traverse the R&B genre more than anything. Song after song, I kept thinking to myself these were the kind of ballads that groups like Boyz II Men would have turned out in the ’90s, albeit with an updated electro-pop approach.

Their much-anticipated sophomore record Still Run doesn’t drop on Columbia Records until July 13. The El Rey crowd got a nice preview of the new album, playing about a half-dozen songs from the new record. Even better — the band brought along some strings players.

Wet has become known for their sparse arrangements which let Zutrau’s voice do the heavy lifting — but the string arrangements added some depth that did great in elevating the emotions behind her words. “There’s A Reason” is one of the singles to drop from the new record and one that has a more bubbly feel than many of their older songs.

Zutrau and her band also did what so many try and fail to do in the City of Angels — keep a crowd quiet despite quieter tunes. I’ve been to many shows in tiny theaters where you struggle to hear the singer over the talk at the bar, but Wet had no such issues. Zutrau’s powerful voice and heartfelt lyrics were enough to keep the crowd quiet, especially during old favorites like “These Days”.

The new songs may have a more upbeat feel to them, but they are as intimate as ever. “Lately” is my favorite of the new offerings, and the crowd seemed to feel the same way about the song as I do. It’s quite the jam and had the crowd swooning as she croons, “What have you done for me lately?”

I was a bit surprised that Wet didn’t play “Weak” off their first album. It’s one of their bigger hits from the first record (and coincidentally my favorite of theirs), but they left it off the setlist in favor of some songs they don’t play as much like “All The Ways”.

“You’re the Best” sounded like something Bon Iver would’ve done, especially with the strings, and Wet saved it for the set closer. It’s amazing how Zutrau is able to make the simplest words sound so profound, like “All I know is when you hold me I still feel lonely, lonely when you hold me.”

Wet proved Tuesday night that their brand of tunes is much more accessible than the alt-pop label they’ve been given. Their songs are timeless and about the sort of conflicts that most people have experienced, and Zutrau’s voice is a once-in-a-generation type. The sounds of the new record have me thinking they’ll take another big step forward with its release next month.

Photos by Thane Fernandes