Grimes at The Horseshoe


by Elena Gritzan

I was considering submitting my review for this show just as a series of exclamation marks.  Honestly, nothing else can really express the emotional reaction I had to Tuesday night’s long-anticipated, re-scheduled, completely sold-out Grimes show.  With the release of her phenomenal third album Visions, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that she has exploded, drawing people in with her ear for production and theatrical vocal quirks.

The beauty of early week shows is that they waste no time at all.  Within five minutes of the doors opening (and turning away quite a number of fans hoping to get last minute tickets at the door to no avail – lesson learned to buy your tickets early!), Toronto’s Moon King climbed on stage.  It began with Daniel Woodhead, facing the back wall, crooning into his microphone with only atmospheric electronics to support him.  He was soon joined by Maddy Wilde, and together they sailed through off-kilter harmonies as the set built in intensity (Maddy brought her guitar out and Dan attacked some drums).  They reportedly have an album coming out this summer.

Next was the Toronto debut of Grimes’ label-mates and good friends Majical Cloudz.  The name will be familiar to any sharp Grimes fans – they are featured on one of the songs on Visions (“Nightmusic”).  Singer Devon Walsh stood stoically in the face droning beats.  A suitably calm and quirky respite before the rest of the night.

Born Gold are a band that have been gaining momentum with their visually stunning, dance-inciting live show.  Full disclosure: Born Gold are absolutely my favourite band to see live, and their show has improved tenfold both visually and instrumentally.  They seem to be moving in a new direction musically (a sign that another album is on the horizon? We only just got Bodysongs in September!).  The new songs are taking a deeper, dance-oriented turn (something that could have been predicted from That Way, which has been part of their set for some months now).

To someone who has never seen them play before, watching Born Gold set up can be a confusing and exciting experience.  There are stilts, leaf blowers and helmets.  You start to wonder what exactly you are about to experience (and if you know what is coming, seeing the synthesizer shovel just fills you with intense excitement anyway).  But as I said, Born Gold seem to be going through an evolution.  Some of the classic visual experiences still happen (Calvin McElroy straps on stilts and plays that synth shovel while walking through the crowd during “Alabaster Bodyworlds” as always, and “Lawn Knives” still involves the use of  helmeted heads instead of drums), but they have taken it to a whole new level.

Frontman Cecil Frena has come out from behind the keyboard, donning an intense jacket that lights up based on his body movements (really! Even simple doing something simple like reaching up to adjust his glasses resulted in the arm-lights shining).  So as you can imagine, this means there are choreographed dances, making the jacket light up in time with the songs.  A dramatic final song included glitter masks and light-up fans.  Yes, seeing Born Gold is definitely a spectacle.

While the shenanigans on stage certainly make their performance memorable, the strength of the songs is what keeps drawing me back to this band.  They make dance music for weirdos, in the most delightful way possible.

The audience barely got a chance to take a breath before diving into Grimes.  Her voice still has not fully recovered from last week’s sickness, making some of the high notes in songs like “Symphonia IX” a challenge, but she charmed everyone anyway, dancing and twirling around as she played keyboards, sampled her own voice and belted out her vocals.  She is accompanied on stage by Duffy, a man whose entire purpose is to dance, visually expressing each song.  He changed what he was wearing every few minutes, adding and removing layers of long silks shirts and various scarves.  A few songs in, Born Gold came back out and served as a backing band.

Grimes absolutely deserves all of the attention that has been showered on her recently – Visions is full of intricate songs that lean heavily on electronica, pop and dance music.  Her live set delivers the moments that you hope for (singing along to the chorus of “Vanessa”, or everybody losing their minds to the opening hook of “Oblivion”), as well as throwing in some unexpected surprises (“Circumambient” appeared as a distorted, sampled version of its former self, and she opened with an industrial track that admittedly  “isn’t a real song”).

The set ended after forty-five minutes of frenetic dancing and constant euphoria.  As the most exciting show I have seen in a long time, part of me wished that it would have gone on for longer, but maybe shorter is better.  I am already craving a chance to see her perform again, and I am surely not alone in that.

And now, since I cannot contain myself: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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