HAIM / Lizzo Massey Hall, Toronto ON, May 7

HAIM / Lizzo Massey Hall, Toronto ON, May 7
Photo: Stephen McGill
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On record, HAIM are a slick pop machine. This isn't a knock against the glossy production values of last year's Something to Tell You — and to a lesser extent 2013's Days Are Gone — but the downside is that the raw chops of Danielle, Este and Alana sometimes get lost amid all of the glossy synths and computer edits.

Live, however, HAIM are an entirely different beast, and if their latest Toronto appearance proved anything, it's that the Haim sisters can seriously shred.

The night was opened up by Lizzo, whose banging electro songs and bawdy backup dancers worked up the crowd into a tizzy before the headliners even took the stage. There was twerking aplenty, and the over-the-top visuals were the perfect foil for Lizzo's heartfelt speeches about self-love.

With the audience thoroughly warmed up, HAIM opened with a bang — quite literally — as the Haims began by hammering out a three-part percussion solo on kits that had been set up across the front of the stage. This led into "Falling," during which lead singer Danielle ripped into the first of the night's many spotlit guitar solos. Clad in a dapper red suit, she didn't so much play fast as extremely confidently, and every epic note bend oozed charisma.

Alana's funky staccato guitar and keyboard textures were more subtle but similarly impressive. The true star, however, was Este, whose nimble bass lines were busy but always tasteful. Making some truly absurd, wildly entertaining bass faces, she slapped slithering funk licks on "Walking Away" and anchored the Shania-gone-glam stomp of "The Wire" with rapid-fire triplets.

Their meticulously crafted pop melodies and technical prowess were damn near perfect, and the only times they faltered were the breaks between songs. The sisterly banter was charming in small doses, but Alana played the stereotypical role of the attention-seeking younger sibling by spending far too long with the microphone. When HAIM noticed that their Days Are Gone studio engineer David Schiffman was in the audience, this derailed the show for several minutes.
 
Still, even when the banter got off track, all was forgiven as soon as they launched back into a song, and they had the rapturous crowd in the palm of their hand. They bookended the night with another percussion jam, and the encore-free set finished with jets of white confetti showering the audience. It was a welcome moment of theatricality to cap off what was otherwise a night all about musicianship.