Los Campesinos! Lee's Palace, Toronto ON January 21

Los Campesinos! Lee's Palace, Toronto ON January 21
Backed by an acoustic guitar or carried by tuned-down, four-chord down-strokes, too much lyrical candour can produce a sudden, violent case of the douche chills (symptoms: cringing and empathetic embarrassment). Conversely, wrapped in agile poetics and buoyed by swelling, danceable hooks, frankness can be downright infectious. Therein lies the allure of Los Campesinos!

Playing the first of a two-night Lee's Palace stint, the Brit septet were fired up. Out of the gate, recent single "By Your Hand" was built around a thundering bass drum; "Romance Is Boring" used a caustic guitar to hammer home its point; and "Death to Los Campesinos!" introduced a power glockenspiel. Throughout, singer Gareth Campesinos! paired his heart-on-the-sleeve narratives with a balls-out delivery. Sing-alongs and first pumping followed.

Gareth has continued to broaden and refine his vocals, and the live results displayed his range. While his trademark snark and rapid-fire delivery were still prevalent -- particularly on "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" -- "Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1" showed off a solid falsetto and "The Black Bird, the Dark Slope" was a feat of control.

As with any Los Campesinos! gig, jaunty keys, dexterous guitars and big choruses got the glory, though the underrated rhythm section -- bassist Ellen Campesinos! and hard-hitting new stickman Jason Campesinos! -- did much of the heavy lifting.

Highlights included a slow-building, ultimately ebullient "You! Me! Dancing!" and a swelling "To Tundra." From soup to nuts, the pace was hectic, only slowing for the mid-tempo throwaway "Life Is a Long Time," which was still as loud as bombs.

A Saturday night dance party, the set ended with Gareth in the crowd for an up-close version of "Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks." It was a fittingly personal finale to an inclusive and hug-heavy show.