Published Jan 15, 2014"You guys must obviously know how to party, as stuff from the ceiling keeps falling on my stuff," says Guy Lawrence of Disclosure, halfway through their sold-out set at the Danforth Music Hall on the first night of their North American tour. He's right. Small flakes are being dislodged from the ceiling, floating down inside the venue like confetti during Disclosure's set, but with all due respect to the blissed-out punters in attendance, the dislodging was more likely the result of Disclosure's relentless bass-heavy sound system set up.
Disclosure's sound, displaying a knowledge and reverence for classic house music sprinkled with modern variants of UK garage and two-step, has proven to be a potent blend that has garnered them an increasingly fervent and devoted following, as well as commercial and critical acclaim. Indeed, the two barely-20-something brothers, Guy and Howard Lawrence, ended 2013 with their Mercury Prize-nominated debut album Settle nestling near the top of many year-end lists and notching a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Last week they were also nominated for four Brit Awards.
So this latest tour is a victory lap of sorts, celebrating the album's success. The brothers played virtually all the tracks off Settle, as well as their universally acclaimed remix of Jessie Ware's "Running"(although the sublime Jamie Woon-assisted "January" was a notable absence from the set list). Positioned on two rigs across from each other, on stage Disclosure's set up has gradually added elements to their live shows over the past year-and-a-half or so, with each brother augmenting their tracks with live drums, keyboards, and bass guitar. As well as frenetic light show, the stage also featured a lopsided square screen mounted behind the duo that was often used to display the infamous Disclosure face image.
Indeed, it was the appearance of the Disclosure face image on the screen that indicated the show was getting underway (it would later lip-synch the London Grammar collaboration "Help Me Lose My Mind" to the crowd's delight). Soon after taking the stage to rapturous applause, the Lawrences went straight to work with Howard taking the lead vocals on "F for You," triggering the first of many crowd sing-alongs, followed by the addictive "When A Fire Starts to Burn." For the most part, the tracks retained the shape of their Settle incarnations with the brothers occasionally adding instrumental flourishes. Disclosure's trademark, though, is the tension and release of bass and they deployed this skill to maximum effect throughout, knowing when to decrease, amplify and distort its presence.
Early track "Tenderly" seemed to boast a more robust low-end than on record, and similarly "Stimulation" and "Grab Her" were so immersed in bass that the Jill Scott and J Dilla samples those respective records are built around were virtually subsumed in the mix. Conversely, Disclosure's biggest songs benefit from fading out and gradual re-integration of bass and in a live setting applied to "White Noise" and set closer, the irrepressible "Latch," a full-on dance party ensued. The only knock on the show was the complete absence of any vocalists from the album being available to perform. While AlunaGeorge, Jessie Ware and now even Disclosure-boosted Sam Smith understandably have thriving solo careers of their own to manage it would have been interesting to see lesser-known Settle vocalists like Sasha Keable or Sinead Harnett perform.
While none of those artists did not make an appearance at the show it should be mentioned that Chicago rapper Vic Mensa did open for Disclosure with a set of his own. After his DJ warmed the crowd with some trap and Childish Gambino, Mensa took to the stage wearing a shiny silver jacket and proceeded to perform a few select tracks off his excellent Innanetape mixtape. Aside from running Drake's "Worst Behaviour" for the Toronto crowd, he stuck to "Lovely Day," "Orange Soda" and a new house-infused track of his own, displaying not only his vocal versatility and star potential, but also a similar affinity for infectiously eclectic sounds, which obviously fuels the fraternal headliners that followed him.