Published Dec 21, 2011Toronto is often derided by the rest of Canada, perhaps fairly, for its cooler-than-thou attitude, especially at shows. There's an imaginary boundary between artist and audience, and a set of unspoken guidelines that ensure concertgoers limit their display of affection to a curt nodding of the head. The shows by Hogtown's most popular post-hardcore sextet Fucked Up are different. They're a communal event in which the line between audience and band hardly exists, with attendees encouraged to engage in kinesthetic appreciation of the music, and a sense of city camaraderie is not just palpable, but physically evident in sweat stains and torn shirts.
Things were of course no different at the band's show at the Great Hall, wherein Fucked Up played the entirety of their utterly fantastic and critically drooled-over LP, David Comes to Life, to raise funds for two charities, the COUNTERfit Harm Reduction Program and the Barriere Lake Legal Defense Fund. The headliners followed excellent sets by Quest for Fire, PS I Love You (whose Paul Saunier has come a long way since the nerves of early PSILY shows) and the Sadies, whose spaghetti western sound was played at such a rollicking pace, it frequently bordered on rockabilly.
All three bands received much crowd adulation, but it was Fucked Up they were there to see. Within the first few ringing chords of "Queen of Hearts," the crowd at the front of the stage was already churning, coagulating around Damian Abraham and pointing at him for emphasis; by "Turn the Season," he was on on the venue's balcony, hugging individual audience members as he made his way from the west mezzanine to the east. He's a spectacle, sure -- casually stripping as the show went on, lifting crowd surfers onto his shoulders and pointing the mic at the crowd, even when they were too far away to be heard -- but it was this inclusivity, even at such a grand venue, that will ensure Fucked Up remain such a beloved live force.
Which is to say nothing of the band's excellent performance of the album itself. Sandy Miranda, Ben Cook and Josh Zucker ably handled all the extra vocal duties, killing it on David highlights like "Queen of Hearts," "Running on Nothing," "A Little Death" and especially "One More Night," on which Miranda's honeyed-though-unpractised warble rang nice and clear. Drummer Jonah Falco switched up the tempo at will to give certain songs more emphasis, while the rest of the band ably followed suit providing the only exception to the group's faithful renditions of the album's 18 tracks, from which every guitar lick and every blood-curdling scream was present (except on "The Other Shoe," whose vocal duties were covered almost entirely by the crowd).
Best of all, the band themselves seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. "This is the best Toronto show ever," Abraham exclaimed repeatedly, adding jokingly, "This is the peak. Years from now, in blogs or zines or whatever, when they talk about the decline of Fucked Up, it will begin after this show." Hopefully not, but then, it wouldn't be the worst way to go out.
The latter half of the show proved just how consistent David Comes to Life is, as the band stormed through an emphatic string of highlights that went from "Life in Paper" all the way to "The Recursive Girl." By "One More Night," the entire crowd was still clapping along enthusiastically, and "Lights Go Out" played like a celebratory curtain call, making an encore unnecessary. That Fucked Up returned to play a three-song encore, including Cook's hilarious "Do You Feed? (The Curry Song)" and a rousing rendition of "Jingle Bells," only served to highlight the band's connection to their city.
There was a moment, during "Turn the Season," in which Abraham stood stationary on the balcony, observing the crowd frothing beneath him. It was an odd moment for anybody who's been to a Fucked Up show before -- to see Abraham, known so well for reveling in the sweaty debauchery and blurring the line between crowd and audience, taking a moment out to observe the band's accomplishments was something of a revelation. Of course, nobody could argue he deserved it. A lot of bands might rep Toronto, but Fucked Up live, breathe, sweat and bleed it. You could say this was a night just for them, but they could never be so selfish. As the crowd and charities would readily admit, it was a night for all.