Published Mar 24, 2012After over four hours of waiting on two packed floors that felt more like a series of holding pens than a club, Nicolas Jaar took the stage with his two band members, placing themselves at a setup of electric guitar and a bank of synths with Jaar in front of a laptop and keyboards. After some brief mic checks, the show started with the abrasive sound of crackling static and bassy rumblings that stood in direct contrast to the upbeat, accessible DJ set that preceded it.
Jaar began with a jammed-out, somewhat '80s-sounding instrumental, with live keys, sax and guitar. Just as it was getting going, though, Jaar's laptop crashed and had to be restarted. But the band didn't flinch, continuing with the ambience and instrumentation until the laptop came back up, and the track slowly but steadily grew into an awesome house-like build with some Ethio-sounding sax and piano riffs. The song eventually broke down, folding beautifully into a sleazy, slow jazzy number.
The best moments of the set, however, were the parts where the sax and guitar receded into the background and allowed the electronics to come through unfettered. One of the highlights was "Too Many Kids Finding Rain in the Dust," although it was marred by some cheesy '80s-sounding sax and the kind of funky guitar work that is all well and good for teenagers jamming in a garage, but opens up some huge questions about the credentials of this supporting band.
With Jaar and co. laying down mostly unfamiliar tracks and only a few recognisable numbers, it was a potentially great set, but was hurt by Jaar's vocals being lost in the mix, not to mention there was far too much sax and guitar wankery. The arc of the set also needed a lot of work, the gorgeous slow builds being brought back down in a confused manner with more needless noodly instrumentation.
The ten-minute encore was the only part of the set that felt fully convincing with Jaar alone at his laptop and controllers. Appropriate for a Toronto show, he dropped his excellent remix for Azari & III's "Into the Night." And even when Jaar brought out his backing band for one last track, the playing this time was tasteful and restrained, proving that this group format can actually work when it ditches the juvenile Clapton-wannabe indulgence that ruined the majority of the show.