Atlas Genius / Pacific Air / Haerts Opera House, Toronto ON, June 23
Published Jun 24, 2013Buoyed by the support of the local alternative radio station and its constant airplay of lead single "Trojans," Australian synth-pop duo Atlas Genius played to a packed crowd Sunday night at the Toronto stop of their current headlining tour.
Starting things off early was Haerts, a chillwave-inspired five-piece hailing from Brooklyn touring in advance of their upcoming debut. Coming off a recent stint with indie-pop troupe Shout Out Louds — with whom the group actually played in the same location a little over a month ago — the nubile crew commanded the stage with their atmospheric rock. At times, the venue's cavernous corners seemed too much for the band's brand of subtle synth-grooves, with keyboard textures getting lost in the theatre and drowning out the group's vocals. But after awhile Haerts seemed to take full-advantage of the situation, with multi-layered track "All the Days" sounding especially slick in the Opera House's ambient pockets.
Following up next was Pacific Air. Made up of brothers Ryan and Taylor Lawhon, the Southern Californian band — rounded out by three more touring members on guitars and drums — delivered tropical textures with a yacht rock appeal. Musically, the group closely resembled previous touring partners Passion Pit, due to their optimistic melodies and anthemic vocals. But judging by the crowd's ecstatic reaction, you wouldn't be wrong if you considered these guys the second coming of Talk Talk. Taking full advantage of the venue's professional lighting rig, spotlights swirled incessantly to the band's new batch of tunes, especially on debut album highlight "More," which was only enhanced by the group's bombastic drummer.
With the club inching closer to capacity, Adelaide rockers Atlas Genius finally took the stage. Fronted by chief songwriters Keith and Michael Jeffery and rounded out by a touring bassist and keyboardist, the recently successful pop act had a lot to prove on their second foray of the year into Toronto. Returning for their debut headlining spot in the city, the band relied heavily on When It Was Now, the band's first proper full-length, which was released earlier this year. But where their debut LP suffered from over-production and sterile slickness, the band's songs shimmered when given the live treatment, with tracks like "Back Seat" and "Electric" sounding especially spot-on.
Taking a break between songs, lead-vocalist Keith Jeffery joked about his mild-surprise that playing in Canada would offer the most humid set of his career. But the band continued to heat things up, delivering a spontaneous mid-set cover of the Strokes classic "Last Nite" that could have been pulled straight from 2001.
As the night grew to a close, the band were smart enough to leave their most popular song until last, playing radio-friendly single "Trojans" before their final encore. With Minus the Bear-ian rhythms and math rock leanings, Atlas Genius's most popular single to date is certainly the most varied of their catalogue, leaving some to speculate the group is treading a thin line between one-hit wonder and overplayed popsters. But by anchoring their set with cuts from across their debut, the band was able to prove they have more songwriting chops than FM airwaves probably let on.