Blood Orange / TOPS

Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, July 30

Blood Orange / TOPSDanforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, July 30
Photo: Kevin Jones
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Dev Hynes has taken many forms in his well-documented career. From the thrashing antics of Test Icicles to his quirky indie-pop alter ego Lightspeed Champion, a number of unique musical adventures, collaborations and personal struggles have led Hynes to roles as an R&B/pop producer and as the songwriter behind the groove-based pop act Blood Orange. After a taking a break from touring, Hynes announced his return to Toronto, his first show back after a three-year absence.

The Danforth Music Hall was well packed by the time Montreal's TOPS took the stage. Frontwoman Jane Penny introduced the band and quickly spoke on how honoured they were to be opening for Blood Orange after all the support they received from him in the early stages of their career. After the quick shout-out to Hynes, TOPS proceeded to give the crowd a preview of songs off their forthcoming album, Picture You Staring.

Lush, upbeat and slightly intimate, the new songs translated well on stage, getting a pretty huge crowd response throughout their entire set. While each member brought their A-game on stage, Penny's breezy, languid vocals, matched with a cute, sporty look and killer dance moves, had the front section crushing on her pretty hard. TOPS' set ended with Penny busting a few more slick moves before exiting the stage, leaving the band to finish things off with some awesome guitar solos, a smooth fadeout and big cheers from the crowd.

As the stage was being set up for Blood Orange's highly anticipated set, fans caught a glimpse of Hynes dashing out of the audience, where he was watching TOPS, making a quick break for backstage. The packed venue screamed with excitement as a shadowy figure slid out from the beaming hues of purple and thick smoke that covered the stage, getting wilder once Hynes fully appeared from the blinding lights with a full backing band. They got to work the second he picked up his guitar and began shredding. After an energetic, stadium-quality introduction, Hynes greeted the crowd with a cheerful hello, looking dapper in a cream shirt and white pants, fully charged and ready to give everyone exactly what they came for.

When glimmers of "Chamakay" began to flow from the speakers, the crowd lost their minds as Hynes' signature choreography found him sashaying around on stage, not missing a single beat, and giving a pitch perfect vocal performance alongside some very fancy footwork. Other collaborative efforts from Cupid Deluxe, like "No Right Thing" and "You're Not Good Enough," found Hynes' backup singers channeling the tender spirits of Dirty Projectors frontman Dave Longstreth.

If Dev had any reservations about his Toronto return before, the outpour of love and full crowd participation throughout the night surely quelled them. A quick stop at "Sutphin Boulevard" was the defining moment that found the singer in his element, even more charismatic and soulful than before, as the crowd jumped and waved in unison. When the show ended with "Time Will Tell," Hynes said a big thank you to TOPS and the crowd before exiting the stage.

With house lights on and the stage completely empty, fans stood and cheered a good ten minutes for an encore, but it never happened, which led to security escorting everyone out of the venue. Even if fans have to wait another three years to catch Hynes in action again, this show will go down as one of Blood Orange's best, a night to remember.
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