Moonface The Great Hall, Toronto ON, May 12

Moonface The Great Hall, Toronto ON, May 12
Photo: Matt Bobkin
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From the rock of Wolf Parade to the fantasy of Sunset Rubdown, the work of prolific BC musician Spencer Krug is characterized by his distinctive timbre, richly mythological lyrics, and dense, textured sonic landscapes. It is this latter feature that makes the mere concept of a Spencer Krug solo piano concert so perplexing. Not that Krug is a stranger to keys — his first full-length release as Moonface was the aptly titled Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped — but it was a mystery if Krug was capable of stripping his music of the orchestral grandeur that he was known for.

These doubts were pleasantly quashed when the show eventually arrived. The chosen venue was the Conversation Room of the Great Hall, and the intimate atmosphere of the room seemed like a private recital among friends. Krug engaged with the tightly packed room both through between-song banter and the nine songs themselves, all of them written and composed during the difficult winter following Krug's move to Helsinki, Finland. As none of the nine songs that Krug played during the course of his 80-minute set had been released before (he casually mentioned that the collection may or may not be recorded in the fall), Krug aided the audience with context throughout the night through anecdotes.

He opened his set with an anecdote about driving to Salt Lake City with a friend, only to miss the exit on the highway due to being too engrossed in the conversation about ex-girlfriends. The topic of romance permeated most of the tunes, with Krug noting that while his previous Moonface release, Heartbreaking Bravery, was a breakup album, these were "cheesy love songs." While the songs may have been without the dense textures of Krug's past works, they still featured complicated, shifting structures. The piano parts featured elegant arpeggiated chords that occasionally gave way to loud pounding of the keys, evocative of the winter-induced turbulence that led to the creation of the pieces.

The songs did not lack Krug's customary Biblical references (Cain and Abel and Noah's Ark made appearances, among others) and frequent mentions of animals and nature. Aided by the silence of the audience, who held on to his every word and note, Krug controlled the performance. He truly shared a raw part of himself with the audience, infusing his emotions into every song.

For once, we were able to look behind the energy and all the instruments to see Moonface for who he truly is: one man transplanting his dreams, memories, and feeling into song. The set was raw and emotional, yet Krug controlled every move seamlessly. Everyone in the room felt honoured to be a part of this showcase, and Krug was just as happy to open up to us. While his name was obscured by a moniker, his presence was not, and Spencer Krug's set at the Conversation Room will definitely resonate with those who were there for a long time.