Exclaim!

Elite Gymnastics

Club Soda, Montreal, QC, September 20

Elite Gymnastics
Photo: Julie Michaud
When Elite Gymnastics opened his set with an R&B karaoke cover of the Spice Girls' "Say You'll Be There," he was giving the audience a helpful hint: don't get too comfortable. The set was more a piece of performance art than a concert, with as much time dedicated to discussion, audience interaction and personal reflection from James Brooks as there was to music.

Dressed in baggy white clothes and wearing a crown of flowers, Brooks embarked on a self-contained experience. Each song, initiated by a tap on his iPad, brought up a new looped YouTube video projected onto a white sheet. He spent much of the show singing from his knees or punching a guitar he violently threw to the stage. Eventually he opened up to the audience. "I'm really uncomfortable," he admitted. "I need to get better at this. I'm really bad at social situations."

This reserve was endearing for some in the crowd, especially those whom he singled out to receive a flower from a bouquet he kept at his side. And it may have been in part due to the fact Brooks was used to having company on stage, as Elite Gymnastics was a duet until Josh Clancy left the group last month.

Regardless, it was a mask that needlessly disguised the producer's captivating songwriting ability. Track "OMAMORI" paired sharp, high-pitch tones with a haunting, emotive melody that focused your attention on him and him alone. "Andreja 4-Ever," an ode to feminist critic Andrea Dworkin, matched a very '90s drum-box beat with some clever harmonica and unadorned speak-sing. But for his reticence, Brooks made some thought-provoking, otherworldly music and should have been prouder in its presentation.

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