Published Dec 11, 2015Night one of three Toronto shows in a row from Born Ruffians took place last night (December 10) at the Silver Dollar (the next two shows are at Lee's Palace, and the Opera House, respectively). It was almost a decade ago that these four last showed their faces round these parts, when they played with Tokyo Police Club, and much has changed.
The Ruffians have switched up their lineup, grown from lanky teens to confident musicians, and have made a marquee name for themselves. As suggested in their latest release, RUFF, they've made it, as proven by the sold-out crowd squeezed into the corners of the dark dive. The quirks are still there — in the call-and-response yelps between frontman Luke Lalonde and guitarist/keyboardist Andy Lloyd; in Lloyd's wild tambourine shaking; in the synchronized jumping up and down; in bassist Mitch DeRosier's articulated playing and head-bobbing — but it's tighter, brighter, a little less sonically manic. "We've got a lot of broken stuff, but we're alright," said DeRosier, in reference to their gear on this, the literal home stretch of their North American tour.
The show started off with comedian Chris Locke as the opener, an intriguing choice that really worked despite the rather novel concept of the thing. "Really excited to do comedy for a group of people that want to hear music," said Locke, a cheeky way to start off his 45-minute set. Locke riffed on audience members (including an advocate for the Comfort Zone, and a lady seemingly obsessed with Levi's, among others), went on and on about his disdain for the moon ("That gloating bitch"), and revelled in getting into it with anyone that heckled him ("I love that, that's my juice"). The set was well received with laughs all around, and it was nice to see another form of Toronto talent highlighted.
The Ruffians' set started off with older fare ("This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life") before going into pickings from Red, Yellow & Blue. "Stupid Dream" off of this year's RUFF had the crowd dancing, and was followed with "When Things Get Pointless I Roll Away," during which Young Rival's John Smith snuck off to stage right, turned the house lights off and turned on a projection of Lalonde's album art for RUFF. (It would've worked a tad better had the Dollar been just a pinch darker, but it was still neat.)
The crowd was a fairly even mix of new album keeners and diehards, ages ranging from just-turned-19 to been-around, which nicely mirrored the set of old tunes and new selections. "Nova Leigh" was perfectly executed by the band — they nailed the staccato start and stops — but the crowd blew it during the encouraged sing-along bits. "Hummingbird" grabbed their attention, prompting boogying and heightening the feeling of warmth in the room, while the sing-along during "Needle" made up for the earlier crowd failure (and had a DeRosier-lookalike dancing in an inebriated seductive manner next to Lloyd onstage).
The crowd could have been a pinch more enthusiastic, but the band were fantastic. Here's hoping things get a bit wilder at Lee's tonight.