By Alan RantaEdmonton-based electro freak pop act Born Gold blasted the dank Fortune Sound with heavy yet glitchy beats, and red, blue, white and green flashing lights so belligerent, they should have required patrons to sign a waver at the door. In less epileptic moments, the light show attached to lead freak Cecil Frena was quite a sight, though, with strings of white lights running down each arm that were sequentially illuminated along with MIDI effects, as well as LED wire outlining his collar and assorted other triggered colours attached to his person. Cecil's two associates also performed a touch of choreography with sets of backlit fans. At one point, a giant black sheer cloth appeared and made its way over the crowd, before collapsing back into the front from whence it came. It was a spectacle suitable to their aggressively off-kilter electronic sound.
Vancouver-via-Montreal singer-producer Claire Boucher seemed appropriately nervous for her set. This was the first sold-out gig on this tour for Visions, her first album after signing to the renowned 4AD imprint. But with all the recent hype surrounding her latest full-length, the pressure on her for this show must have been viscous.
It's hard to say that Grimes lived up to the hysteria. Whenever Boucher's unrefined voice was audible, out from under her wash of reverb and effects, it showed a lot of green, falling off-key and not confidently hitting a lot of notes. The instrumentals also came off a little clunky at times, with some off-time beats and odd dropouts, even with Born Gold coming back out to flesh out her sound for the majority of her set.
Yet Boucher has obvious potential. There is a spark in her bubbly personality, even when she just spat and made warble "A" sounds for mic checks. Her post-Internet pop beats have become increasingly interesting as well, borrowing from a range of styles while maintaining a cohesive aesthetic. It's clear she tries to push her boundaries as a musician in the studio and onstage, which makes it easy to give her the benefit of the doubt. Boucher's genuine enthusiasm is contagious, as proven by the high percentage of bobbing heads that tapped into the energy flowing out from the stage and speakers, which she kept pushing to 11 despite bordering on feedback.
Boucher was a relative latecomer to music, having caught the bug at 18, and still enjoying her early 20s today. It's unfair to put her in the same league as Gaga, Robyn or even Annie quite yet. However, if she continues to refine her aesthetic and taste level, Grimes has the tools to compete with them all soon. As it stands, at $15 a ticket, it's doubtful anyone would call this work-in-progress a rip-off.