Thursday, September 29th, 2011
The Horrors and The Stepkids at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangThe narrative around The Horrors’ second album Primary Colours was a simple one – the band who made Strange House, with the outlandish costumes and stage names, were no more and in their place was a lean, fearsome combo who weren’t part of a shoegaze revival but a shoegaze revitalization. Primary Colours learned from the sound-sculpting lessons of the past and applied them towards creating something familiar yet undeniably fresh. It was a remarkable thing. Their visit in October 2009 in support of Primary Colours confirmed that even if they’d ditched the accoutrements, they’d kept the punk energy and intensity that came with their earlier incarnation in a live setting. And so for their show on Tuesday night in support of their more textured and impressionistic third album Skying, the only real question was how great was it going to be?
There were still surprises to be had, however, including the support act – a trio from Connecticut, of all places, called The Stepkids. Taking the stage dressed completely in white – to match the sheets draped over their gear and the backdrop behind them – they laid into a set of super-’70s psychedelic disco slow jams while trippy projections that seemed culled from episodes of The Electric Company danced overtop. All three were virtuosic players and singers, alternating lead vocals and combining on impeccable three-part falsetto harmonies, and on top of it all the material from their self-titled debut – which was officially released that same day – was more than solid. Initially the old-school Horrors fans in attendance didn’t look impressed, having come to the show to freak out rather than get their freak on, but by the set’s end there were more than a few brightly-dyed heads bobbing up and down with the groove. Which just goes to show – you can’t fight the funk.
It’d be dishonest to say that the opening of The Horrors’ set didn’t seem a little devoid of occasion, with the band strolling out one by one and kicking into Skying opener “Changing The Rain” without so much as dimming the lights. I can appreciate that they’ve reached a point where their music is strong enough that dressing it up is unnecessary, but a little attention to presentation is always nice, no? As it turned out, they were just doing me a favour in leaving the lights up long enough to get some decent photos. Within a few songs they began to dim and perhaps not coincidentally, the band’s energy levels began to rise and it became clear that this wasn’t just a recital, but a trip – a descent, and one of which the band was in complete control. It was loud and intense but there was no sense of chaos. Instead, their display of power was graceful and elegant and a thing to behold.
The set was divided evenly between Primary Colours and Skying, with lanky frontman Faris Badwan’s limited repertoire of stage moves – either gripping and grimacing into the microphone stand or foot on the monitor, doing the same – more than enough to command the packed house’s attention. It’d have been undivided attention if not for Joshua Hayward proving more and more that he’s as crucial an element in their sound. It’s astonishing that he’s the band’s only guitarist and is able to recreate so many of the records’ textures live and move from atmospheric soundscape to crushing riff at the drop of a hat. And as if to give him his proper due, the set built up to an epic, trance-like finale of Skying centrepiece “Moving Further Away”, which served as a showcase for his talents and brought what had been a rather short set – the main set ran just 45-minutes – to a respectable running length. Not that anyone should have been looking at their watches; that would have meant having to tear your eyes away from the show.
Photos: The Horrors, The Stepkids @ Lee’s Palace – September 28, 2011
MP3: The Horrors – “Moving Further Away”
MP3: The Horrors – “Sea Within A Sea”
MP3: The Stepkids – “Legend”
MP3: The Stepkids – “Shadows On Behalf”
Video: The Horrors – “Still Life”
Video: The Horrors – “Whole New Way”
Video: The Horrors – “Mirror’s Image”
Video: The Horrors – “Who Can Say”
Video: The Horrors – “Sea Within A Sea”
Video: The Horrors – “She Is The New Thing”
Video: The Horrors – “Gloves”
Video: The Horrors – “Count In Fives”
Video: The Horrors – “Sheena Is A Parasite”
Video: The Stepkids – “Wonderfox
Video: Loney Dear – “My Heart”
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