El Perro Del Mar Mod Club, Toronto, ON February 21

El Perro Del Mar Mod Club, Toronto, ON February 21
Sweden's El Perro Del Mar (aka Sarah Assbring) has lately ditched her 1960s Parisian café ambitions in favour of a markedly more diverse approach. The result could land her in a different kind of coffee shop altogether (see Starbucks' music rack), but has nevertheless injected fresh life into her formerly somnolent live show.

Last time Ms. Assbring played the Mod Club, she shared the bill with fellow countrywoman, Lykke Li, and has since borrowed some dance moves from the young star, arriving jaunty and bouncing. From the outset, new cuts hinged on MOR tropes, including the worldbeat-era Paul Simon sounds of "Let Me In" and the Melissa Etheridge-evoking misfire, "Change of Heart." Things got better, however, with the surprisingly danceable yet coquettishly breathy "L Is for Love."

Assbring and her crack three-piece band thrived on diversification, triumphing with a lounge-lizard guitar on old favourite, "Party," and the paradoxically sombre and uplifting "Gotta Get Smart." Drawing inspiration from G.K. Chesterton, "It Is Something (To Have Wept)" proved something of a slow-dance hymnal — kudos to the doo-wop backing vocals — while "A Better Love" was a break-up/break-out pop party.

Assbring et al scored big with a disparate pair of covers. Injecting the XX's "Shelter" with massive, stomping live drums, they crafted a huge rendition of a still-fresh song. Similarly, Lou Reed follow-up, "Heavenly Arms," retained its predecessor's big drums, building on the momentum of "Shelter," and adding a deep groove and reggae tinge for a stirring re-imagination. Short and mostly sweet, the set was playful and varied, ending just in time for the Sweden-versus-Finland Olympic hockey game.