The Antlers / Port St. Willow
Great Hall, Toronto, ON, September 25
Since putting out their breakthrough record Hospice in 2009, the Antlers have followed up with the Burst Apart LP in 2011 and the Undersea EP this year, with their performance composed of material from all three of these outstanding releases.
The band started with "Drift Dive," the lead single off the new EP. It was later on, however, that they boasted their recently discovered ability to plumb the depths of an aquatic sound with songs such as "Endless Ladder" and "Crest."
At the centre of the set were a few Hospice tracks, and "Kettering" was just as spine tingling live as it is on the album. Frontman Peter Silberman's soulful voice and heart-wrenching lyrics built slowly into a crescendo with a little help from Darby Cicci's torrents of synth.
There's a certain irony about the notion of a popular and reliable indie band. To consistently appeal to a large number of listeners, the music can't be overly difficult or experimental. But judging by last night's concert, the Antlers have gravitated toward a more mainstream approach.
In fact, if you closed your eyes during the refrain "trust in me" on the set's closing number "Putting the Dog to Sleep," you almost felt surrounded by a stadium crowd waving cellphones in the air. Their set wouldn't have been out of place in the opening slot of a worldwide tour with the Flaming Lips or even, dare we say, Coldplay.
Brooklyn-based act Port St. Willow, the project of Nick Principe, preceded the Antlers. Principe's high voice and atmospheric guitar glided over rolling and crashing drums as he crafted a pretty sort of melancholia. While his approach was soothing, it sometimes veered off into lullaby territory and leaned on a crutch of ambiance.
Still, when Principe loosened up and lent some bite to his falsetto coo, as during the climax of "North" from his Holiday album, he demonstrated why he's garnered critical accolades. This was his first show outside the U.S., and he definitely earned some new fans for next time Port St. Willow comes to town.
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