DIANA The Great Hall, Toronto ON, December 8

DIANA The Great Hall, Toronto ON, December 8
Photo: Stephen McGill
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No one member at DIANA's hometown Toronto gig last night (December 8) stole the show: between the sultry and deliciously '80s saxophone rips from Joseph Shabason (who can also be credited for the sexy sax on Destroyer's Kaputt), the groove brought good and heavy by top-notch drummer Kieran Adams, the voice and charisma of Carmen Elle and the soul-soaked backing vocals of Gary Beals, it was a four-way tie.
 
Every single time Beals broke out into a singing spell, it brought smiles to the band member's faces and cheers from the crowd. Elle seemed to know it, too: "In every interview I've been doing, I say everyone is so crucial, backup singers are so crucial. Can we get a hard spotlight on them for the rest of the show?"
 
Across the board (or stage, rather), the band played beautifully (Thom Gill was a highlight, as was guest percussionist Mario Allende), both as a whole and individually, with great flourish. When Elle waved her hands in time with a particular beat or note, it was clear that she was feeling it, as it was when Gill broke into a dance before heading into song.
 
As the bassist slid into the very Jaco Pastorius-esque opening riff of "Perpetual Surrender," there was no doubt that he was also with it. The immediacy of Adams' drumming made a good portion of the crowd turn into dancers (with Adams almost dancing himself, while drumming).
 
"We're entering the saxophone segment of our set now," said Elle. "You guys want to hear Joseph play sax now?" The crowd's reaction? A wolf whistle, followed by cheers. "Born Again" featured a sweet little dance-off between Beals and fellow back-up singer Ivy Mairi with Gill, so contagious that it prompted a growing number of bodies in the crowd to follow suit.
 
Cuts from their newest record, Familiar Touch, such as "Confession" and "Slipping Away," were a lot more bombastic and energetic when executed live, almost breathing new life into songs that felt subdued on their recording.
 
There was no doubting the danceability and sheer groove that DIANA brought last night, though; audience members turned towards their friends and partners, lost in the sounds that were spilling over them and translating them into movement.