Published Jan 24, 2017On the Lemon Twigs' debut LP, Do Hollywood, teenage wunderkinds Brian and Michael D'Addario take listeners through a wild, whimsical crash course of rock's past, told through tracks that blend their influences into a compelling, fresh mixture. But live, they manifest rock myths of yesteryear in more tangible ways: over the course of their set at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern last night (January 23), the brothers D'Addario embodied both the Beatles vs. Stones dichotomy and a sibling rivalry that could just as easily be youthful bickering as the precursor to an Oasis-esque feud. It was utterly compelling.
Both Brian and Michael demonstrate strong frontman chops, but never simultaneously. Do Hollywood alternated between each brother's tracks; similarly, the set was cleanly divided live. Elder Brian started things off, quickly impressing with a sharp, composed demeanour. There's a refined theatricality to his performance: his kaleidoscopic tracks shifted style and tempo frenetically as he bounded around, guitar in tow, changing speed just as swiftly as his tunes. An early career as a child actor on Broadway has led to a sharp, effortless command of the stage. "These Words" was a bombastic, confident early-set highlight.
Younger brother Michael embodied the Jagger-esque, lightning-in-a-bottle rock star, but angered any photographer who chose to adhere to the venue's "first three" rule by staying planted behind the drum kit. Only when he emerged a few songs in did he start with his blink-and-you'll-miss-'em high kicks and edge-of-stage guitar solos. Michael was unrestrained and exuberant, a magnetic presence from which it was hard to look away. When faced with technical difficulties — peals of feedback interrupting his first few numbers, then needing to repeatedly restart set climax "As Long As We're Together" — his calm, affable demeanour charmed the audience, and his desire for the audience to raise double peace signs while headbanging with pursed lips — but not in a "hipster butthole" way, he specified — got the packed crowd playing along.
It was hard, however, not to feel the brothers clashing from their disparate perches. Brian struggled to hold his tongue while the less-composed Michael floundered through his technical difficulties; the elder's attempts to keep the show moving from behind the kit were met with witty barbs from his little brother. (Personal note: As the older brother of a former child actor, Brian's pain became my own.)
Though the setlist was packed with Do Hollywood tracks, covers and new tracks were sprinkled throughout the set. Songs by rock'n'roll lifer R. Stevie Moore, power pop icon Alex Chilton and the brothers' own father, Ronnie D'Addario, added some tangible markers to the band's infinite influences, but were also the most straightforward in the set, proving the band's innate knack for both owning and subverting their influences. New material, to be released on an EP in June, looks to continue that trend. The live quartet was rounded out by keyboardist Danny Ayala, who proved a fitting partner in the three-part harmonies, and stoic, solid bassist Megan Zeankowski.
Though the bisected set brought the band's tensions to the forefront, their playing proved that the Twigs have earned the hype. With inspirations culled from every decade of rock'n'roll, and the brothers' divergent strengths and attitudes, the Lemon Twigs have something for everyone. The inevitably larger stages the band will grace in the future may be more fitting, but no one who was at the Horseshoe will forget what they saw last night.