Published Nov 16, 2013Walking up to the entrance of Toronto's Danforth Music Hall, signs warned concertgoers of the performance's heavy use of strobe lights and effects; fitting for a band who named their newest LP, Free Your Mind, partially for its cult-like connotations. But at Cut Copy's first Toronto show in over two years, no one seemed to heed the organizers' warning, easily succumbing to the band's intoxicating mix of acid house dementia and stadium rock propaganda.
Starting out the evening's festivities was singer-songwriter Kirin J. Callinan, whose Buffalo Bill-meets-Owen Pallett industrial vibes shocked early arrivals who seemed unsure how to react to his confrontational approach. Ripping off his shirt mid-set, the avant-garde newcomer's unconventional performance (which included singing sans music about a toddler shitting its pants, among other things) felt misplaced next to the night's headlining behemoths. Nevertheless, the Australian crooner was able to at least recruit a few new fans, with operatic vocals and goth guitar lines easily overpowering any attendees who couldn't help but giggle during his deeply personal performance.
Next, DFA Records newcomer Larry Gus wowed the crowd, performing a maximalist set of glitch-heavy free jazz and hip-hop inspired soul-funk in support of his recent LP, Years Not Living. Using little more than a table of trigger pads and his own sinewy falsetto, the Greek producer (real name Panagiotis Melidis) entranced listeners with his cinematic samples and Mediterranean beats.
After a brief 30-minute intermission of ambient house music and down-tempo electronica, the house lights grew dim as a monotone speaker spewed incoherent information over the PA system, looping the statement "free your mind" over and over again until Cut Copy emerged from the shadows and took to their instruments.
Performing the title-track off their acid house-aping new LP, the flamboyant four-piece quickly launched themselves into a heady mix of new and old material alike, blending seamlessly into sing-along renditions of Zonoscope's "Where I'm Going," In Ghost Colours' opener "Feel the Love," and this year's transcendent future space odyssey "In Memory Capsule." The Australian quartet paced the show exquisitely, delving into hits from across their four LPs in an attempt to fully showcase the breadth of their material and club-like live atmosphere. But as frontman Dan Whitford fist-pumped to his band's beats and conducted the crowd with his arms in unison, even the Modular Records maestro couldn't control the enthusiastic audience, who delivered the most energetic responses of the evening to the band's older material, moshing wildly to retro-rompers "Hearts on Fire," the Bright Like Neon Love medley "That was Just a Dream" and "Zap Zap," and dance floor decimator "Nobody Lost, Nobody Found."
Providing nearly identical recreations of their originals, lead guitarist Tim Hoey was gifted with the unusual responsibility of doing pretty much damn well what he wanted during the show. Adding layers or reverberated guitar and dystopic distortion to the band's already rich mix of shoegaze and pungent atmospherics, Hoey provided the perfect foil to the band's precision, smashing mic stands into drummer Mitchell Scott's cymbals on "So Haunted," punishing percussion on hit single "Take Me Over," and slamming his Fender Jazzmaster repeatedly into the venue's stacks and rubbing drumsticks overtop its strings with the assistance of show opener Callinan on an extended version of the Ibiza-inspired rager "Let Me Show You Love."
Leaving the best for last, the band returned after a brief lull to perform an encore featuring Free Your Mind standout "Meet Me in the House of Love", which faded perfectly into crowd favourite "Lights and Music." Reserving their energy for every verse, the audience went airborne during each explosion of the track's anthemic chorus. Climaxing at the song's final crescendo, Hoey leapt from the stage into the crowd, allowing concertgoers to coo into his echo-laden mic as he surfed along the barrier with security tightly in tow.
It was clear Cut Copy weren't looking to convert any new followers, but as the group left the stage high-fiving a sea of sweat-soaked palms, it wasn't hard to imagine the band's electro-loving loyalists spreading their gospel even more vehemently than before.