Following last month's release of their seventh studio album, Stubborn Persistent Illusions, Toronto-based post-rock veterans Do Make Say Think played their only announced show for an ecstatic hometown crowd at the Danforth Music Hall on Saturday night (June 10).
Although there had been an eight-year gap since 2009's Other Truths, and the band have only played sporadically in that time, the beloved group took the stage with a magnetic charm, brushing off the long wait with the hopeful, eloquent imagery of their instrumental music.
Amidst the flicker of several bowl lamps and fluorescent lights on the stage, the nine-piece band started with "Bound" and "And Boundless," the two-part centerpiece on Stubborn Persistent Illusions — tracks that effectively capture the essence of the band's two decade history. Beginning with twinkling guitars and slowly adding layers of repetition, the band rose to a triumphant swell and then dissolved into surging siren-like tones for the frenetic latter part of the dual song.
The group played in front of a backdrop projecting a washed-out livestream of themselves, letting their music paint the colour into their narratives by carefully braiding together tight, thundering pieces, but also knowing when to let them loose and flow freely. On "Reitschule," from 2002's & Yet & Yet, they demonstrated this restraint with clean guitar lines and shuffling drums, both whimpering and growling throughout the 10-minute track.
Despite all the moving parts, Do Make Say Think always maintain control; the core multi-instrumentalist team of Justin Small, Charles Spearin and Ohad Benchetrit often change instruments (from guitar to bass to horns to synths) mid-song, showcasing admirable coordination and discipline in their sprawling arrangements. In addition to a three-piece horn section, violinist Julie Penner, and the drumming duo of David Mitchell and James Payment, Do Make Say Think truly perform as a collaborative band with no real leader.
Instead of being overpowering, Mitchell and Payment carefully stitched the dynamic guitars into a cohesive fabric with their scuttering jazz-to-punk percussion. It was an essential element to the show — and it almost didn't happen, because according to Small, Payment had dropped a pot of boiling water on his foot causing an infection and risk of amputation only a week ago. Luckily for the fans, though, the full band reached peak performance condition for their album release show.
Do Make Say Think defy and go beyond any of the usual post-rock tropes. They don't let any atmosphere hang too long, but instead build their songs around a continual riff, splicing in sudden changes and weaving in small cries of violin and climaxing with bursts of horn and guitar distortion. That variation in their musicianship was evident in their performance and setlist choice, from Other Truths' more straightforward rock track "Do" to the quietly eloping and brass-driven "The Landlord is Dead" from their second album, Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead.
They finished the set with fan favourite "Auberge le Mouton Noir" from 2003's Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn. It was a quintessential Do Make Say Think song to close on, and its undercurrent of trembling scraps of melodies and an eventual focal point of cascading guitars had the audience erupting in cheers for their local heroes at the end of the night.