Thee Oh Sees Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, November 17

Thee Oh Sees Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, November 17
Photo: Rick Clifford
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Even though Thee Oh Sees were playing in a venue that could fit 1,500 people, the atmosphere, music and crowd evoked a club in the UK during the golden age of rock'n'roll and punk. The same spirit that took over performances of bands like the Clash and the Who during their early days playing for fellow rockers in underground venues took over the Danforth Music Hall last night (November 17) as the group played a ten-song setlist mixing older material and tracks from newer albums such as Floating Coffin and Mutilator Defeated at Last.
 
With no staging besides their amplifiers and instruments, Thee Oh Sees played a blistering set with occasional slower moments to let the audience breathe. The fuzzy effects of frontman John Dwyer's guitar, already joyous on record, were amplified in the live setting. In between and sometimes during songs, Dwyer would simply let the feedback from his instrument take hold of the crowd, adding to the show's loose and improvisational feel.
 
When he wasn't furiously strumming his guitar or singing in his distinctive, otherworldly falsetto, he was entertaining the crowd with antics that would be familiar to witnesses of Roger Daltrey and Joe Strummer during their prime. Whether it was telling a story of how he woke up in a hotel in Montreal to discover the building next to it was on fire, bantering with the audience ("Start your own fucking band" he told a fan demanding he play louder), or leaving during a song and coming back with a glass of alcohol, Dwyer understood one of the principles of live performances — the audience should be having as much fun as you are.
 
They certainly took this principle to heart, alternating between an all-out mosh pit and a very unruly dance party. Even though drugs were strictly prohibited — a security guard began forcefully moving through the crowd the second that a whiff of marijuana hit the air — it was hard to look around near the stage and find a single person who did not at least appear under the influence. Whether it was moving their bodies in a way that vaguely resembled dancing or bouncing off other audience members like a pinball, the energy of the crowd contributed to classic rock'n'roll feel of the night.
 
Even though this tour comes on the heels of A Weird Exits and right around the corner from the release of companion album An Odd Entrances, not a single song was played from either record. There are very few rock bands where "they needed to play more of their newer material" would be a valid complaint in a live show, but Thee Oh Sees are among them. Despite that, the band delivered what fans came to see. No elaborate staging, no effects, not even an encore; just 10 songs and a lot of rock'n'roll spirit.