Caribou Gave Toronto Some Much-Needed Live Music Realness Danforth Music Hall, November 24
Published Nov 25, 2021In the final moments of Caribou's long-awaited performance at the Danforth Music Hall, the musicians were interrupted momentarily by the fire alarm going off — an apt metaphor for a hot, fiery set that felt like glorious catharsis after nearly two years of delays.
The band's three Toronto performances had originally been scheduled for mid-March 2020, making them some of the first shows to be delayed due to the pandemic. And while it's not exactly accurate to say it was worth the wait — no show could be worth that much — it was a satisfying conclusion for fans who held onto their tickets all this time.
Caribou leader Dan Snaith and his bandmates were dressed in all-white, with a setup that looked surprisingly like a traditional rock band: there was a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer, with Snaith playing synths and occasionally hopping onto a second drum kit.
But even if they looked like a rock band, this iteration leaned heavily into the project's electronic side — much of the hour-and-a-half set was devoted to long dance jams, with nearly the entire setlist drawn from 2010's Swim, 2014's Our Love and 2020's Suddenly. (The only exception was the recent single "You Can Do It," and there was nothing at all from more organic early albums like Andorra or The Milk of Human Kindness.) Drummer Brad Weber (a.k.a. Pick a Piper) impressively stayed locked into samples and arpeggiators, staying on the grid with a sense of groove. The lighting show — which was heavy on strobes, dramatic backlighting, and the two-tone visualizers from Suddenly's rollout — added to the general sense of disorientation.
At nearly every turn, Caribou surprised with how much of their electronic music they performed live — like on the sprawling, climactic dance jam "Never Come Back," with Snaith actually playing the repetitive synth chords on his keyboard rather than use samples or a loop. The single "Home" was a moment when the samples took over, and while that song is beautiful on-record, its mid-tempo swagger and concise runtime made for the only lull in the otherwise full-throttle performance.
It's still difficult to feel fully comfortable in a room packed with dancing strangers — but towering standouts like the sprawling "Sun" and the dreamy "You and I" offered a much-needed sense of communal celebration. Snaith didn't say much between songs, but his effusively sincere thank-yous conveyed a sense of relief that, at least for the time being, nights like this are possible.