Monday, July 15th, 2013
Chairlift at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto
Frank YangAs mentioned when this show was originally announced in May, I was quite pleased to see that New York’s Chairlift were coming back to town as part of Harbourfront Centre’s Soundclash festival because I didn’t realize how much I liked their second album Something until they had finished touring it. And that’s largely because I found their 2008 debut Does You Inspire You? intermittently entertaining but largely uninteresting, the overall quality not matching their iTunes advert-elevated profile. I didn’t appreciate how much better they got after founding member Aaron Pfenning left, leaving the duo of Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly to regroup and realize ditching the cutesy/goofy songwriting o the debut for an approach that understood Polachek’s remarkable vocals were better cast in a more soulful, yet more synthesized context, would produce much stronger work.
So of course they opened up with an opera number. Or operatic, at the least. I’m not sure if it was an original composition, but if the intention was to grab the attention of passers-by out for walk along the waterfront with a riveting vocal performance, it did the job. “Sidewalk Safari” immediately followed to reassure fans they weren’t, in fact, at the wrong show, and the next song, a slinky slow-burner, was one of a few new songs in that vein. Compared to the recent and new material, the simple singalong pop of “Bruises” sounded almost quaint and emphasized how much more sophisticated of a band they had become, but there was no disputing its crowd-pleasingess, hence its inclusion though rather earlier in the show than one might have thought. And though they cited “I Belong In Your Arms” as a request, I can’t believe it’d have been omitted from the show otherwise – surely there’s consensus that it’s one of the best songs in their repertoire?
Chairlift on this evening were a three-piece, with a guitarist/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist augmenting the core duo. Apparently they’ve toured as a larger live band in the past, allowing Polachek to focus on frontwoman duties rather than anchor herself to a keyboard for parts of the set, but even so she was still a presence on stage, all tassels and shampoo commercial hair – to say nothing of her remarkable vocals, even rangier and more expressive live than on record – as she roamed the stage and danced. The audience, in typically polite Toronto fashion, was appreciative but it took a direct invitation from Polachek to dance to get up out of their seats. I’d like to think, however, that they’d have done so on their own by the time the show closed with “Amanaemonesia”. A terrific way to spend a Summer’s evening, and cement my appreciation for the band, if somewhat late to the party.
Photos: Chairlift @ Harbourfront Centre – July 12, 2013
MP3: Chairlift – “I Belong In Your Arms”
MP3: Chairlift – “Lift Cool As A Fire”
MP3: Chairlift – “Garbage”
Video: Chairlift – “Met Before”
Video: Chairlift – “Amanaemonesia”
Video: Chairlift – “Bruises”
Video: Chairlift – “Evident Utensil”
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Video: CocoRosie – “Gravedigress”
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Stream: Of Montreal – “fugitive air”
Stream: Widowspeak – “True Believer”