Duchess Says House of Targ, Ottawa ON, November 4

Duchess Says House of Targ, Ottawa ON, November 4
Photo: Ming Wu
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Anyone who has ever seen Annie-Claude Deschênes and her band of merry men perform knows that she's a force to be reckoned with. With her ever-changing facial expressions, dynamite stage presence and ability to make any crowd bow to her greatness, she's one of the best live performers I've ever seen.
 
Hot off the release of their excellent third studio album, Sciences Nouvelles — arguably their most pop release to date — you had to wonder how this new material would translate to the stage. Thankfully, their distinctly punk attitude has not been diluted and their live show manages to elevate cuts like "Travaillez" (for which they invited half the crowd onstage for an all-out dance party) from a simple synthy pop jam to potent statement.
 
All of the band's usual live tricks were on full display, including Annie-Claude's blurring of the performer/audience line, and the crouching down in and with the crowd mid-show to then have everyone jump up along with her. While this usually manages to engage the entirety of the audience, I must commend Annie-Claude's ability to get most of the notoriously difficult Ottawa crowd to partake.
 
House of Targ is a perfect venue for their brand of stage antics, with only a one-foot riser and no real barrier between stage and audience, which definitely worked to their advantage.
 
During a finale that included highlight "PyPy 'New York'" and showcased the band's uncanny ability to switch gears at the drop of the hat, Annie-Claude lamented that she didn't want to leave the stage, all while sprinkling glitter over the crowd. She then threw herself to the ground while sirens were blaring, imploring her band to come back on stage.
 
The encore featured some choice older cuts, such as "Gainsbourg" and "Time to Reiterate," throughout which a fishnet-clad mannequin was thrown offstage to crowdsurf.
 
If this was an introduction to some of the members of the audience, what an introduction if was. After a solid yet lacklustre set by local trio the Dark Plains, and an interesting performance by "muddy pop" duo Expanda Fuzz filled with potential, Duchess Says delivered a master class in showmanship.