Hard-Fi The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON - January 20, 2006

Hard-Fi The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON - January 20, 2006
For every new British buzz band looking to make their impact on this side of the pond, the first show in Toronto always seems to be an interesting analysis. In the last two years, bands like Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys sold out their debuts instantly, while Bloc Party and the Futureheads struggled to reach half-capacity. Staines' Hard-Fi (from the same London neighbourhood as Ali G.) floated into T-dot without a new album available until mid-March, little to no airplay and virtually no hype — and yet the show was sold out weeks in advance. Taking to the stage with enthusiastic abandon, the quartet jumped into the politically charged bounce of "Middle Eastern Holiday," immediately giving a quick glimpse into what would be a non-stop, hour-long romp of bursting energy. From there, elated front-man Richard Archer led the crowd in (unexpected) sing-alongs to infectious hits "Tied Up Too Tight" and the dub-inflected "Cash Machine," which fuelled Archer's intermittent use of the melodica. The frenzied backbeat of "Gotta Reason" brought the tempo of the set to a blazing pinnacle, while summer anthem "Hard to Beat" pumped the crowd full of animation with its disco-heavy rhythm and perfect chorus. For those familiar with their debut, Mercury Prize-nominated album Stars of CCTV (most of which was covered), it was also a nice treat to hear a brand new song, as well as their b-side cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" — a virtually unrecognisable yet respectable dub/reggae interpretation doused in reverb and melodica. Archer's solo acoustic performance of "Stars of CCTV" proved just how varied and rich Hard-Fi's songbook is, hitting everything from pop/rock, disco, punk and dub/reggae with full confidence. For a band that two days later found themselves with a number one album in the UK, they proved why they were top of the pops with this dynamic Canadian debut, which only hinted at the success that should follow them over here throughout 2006.