How to Dress Well Great Hall, Toronto, ON, October 4

How to Dress WellGreat Hall, Toronto, ON, October 4
Photo: Lauren Barless
When I first saw Tom Krell perform two years ago at the tiny Drake Underground, he was not only visibly nervous, standing alone onstage with just a laptop on a stand as accompaniment, he was sick, too, with a head cold. Though his voice was suppressed by a clogged sinus, the breaking artist was still impressive. His effortless, buttery voice was more distinguishable behind a noseful of phlegm than behind the hazy production of his first album. His show at Toronto's Great Hall was a different scene: he had a keyboardist and live producer (Aaron Read and Babe Rainbow) flanking him, a mood-suited slew of video clips flickering behind him, a heaping helping of confidence,and, yes, a clear sinus.

A tragically under-capacity crowd was treated to a surprisingly intimate set composed mostly of tracks from How to Dress Well's new album, Total Loss. New ones like "Running Back" and "Say My Name or Say Whatever" were impressive, but latest single "Cold Nites" was an early highlight, as Krell became more comfortable throwing power behind his voice that might have overwhelmed his more delicate cuts. A violin solo by his live producer brought extra pathos to the performance.

New song "No More Death" featured a hammering kick-snare underlying lilting keyboard blips and Krell's trademark, soaring vocals, while "Suicide Dream 2" showcased the power and dynamic of Krell's tenor croon. Then, he kicked up the energy: a spirited rendition of "& It Was U" was followed by the epic "Set It Right," during which Krell asked his sound guy to "turn it up" to put as much emphasis as possible on the crashing choruses. "Ocean Floor for Everything" provided a comedown before the encore, when Krell came out, sans microphone, to perform an a cappella version of "Decisions" to a deserved eruption of applause.