Gentleman Reg Rivoli, Toronto ON, June 12

Gentleman Reg Rivoli, Toronto ON, June 12
Photo: Tiana Feng
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Batted around over 13 years between obscurity, Arts & Crafts and the doomed Three Gut Records, man of seven albums Gentleman Reg (aka Reg Vermue) could easily have lost faith in the music industry. Not the case here. The man himself, strangely pristine-looking and possessed of a stage-born performer's warmth, was poised and engaging at the Rivoli, cementing his reputation as one of Toronto's most intensely likeable artists. "Anybody wanna buy me a gin & tonic?" Vermue joked mid-set, holding aloft an empty plastic cup. When somebody took up the offer, it was touching but not exactly surprising.

His music pitches a scuffed yet soulful vocal between bass, sub-aquatic keys and hiccupping drums, all of which establish a jazzy sort of groove, the backing band transitioning from mournful to buoyant to epic at the click of a finger. Lines like "In time, I'm gonna drink myself into a nursery rhyme" betray the doomed logic of a man who's travelled beyond self-pity and into a place of grim resignation. Not that he's getting hung up on it. His set subsisted on determined perkiness, insistent percussion and rhythmic counter-melodies that transfigured the general gloom into something pleasantly vibrant. Any city-veteran ego was refreshingly untraceable. Take his pre-"Waiting Around for Gold" ramble: "These songs are from a record that I put out myself in November," he explained. "Independently. And all that means is nobody knows about it. So... Surprise!" Such levity remedied any residual earnestness, and though never breathtaking, it was a relentlessly charming performance that showcased an artist who's mastered a modest craft.