Herman Dune Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON January 19

Herman Dune Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON January 19
Despite a sparse setup -- a straight-ahead drum/bass/voice/guitar combo -- French three-piece Herman Dune managed to wring both nuance and bombast from their Horseshoe Tavern set, creating diverse and often thrilling results.

Frontman David-Ivar Herman Dune has a knack for deceptively sophisticated storytelling. Thus his vocals were unsurprisingly high in the mix (to a fault on only a handful of occasions). Still, with clever narratives, cuts like "Lay Your Head on My Chest" and "In the Long Long Run" benefitted from the spotlight.

Nevertheless, the solid rhythm section got its due. "I Hear Strange Moosic" employed an ominous bass drum, becoming a particularly unsettling experience; "When the Water Gets Cold & Freezes on the Lake" was all stomping melodrama; and the sombre "My Home Is Nowhere Without You" enjoyed a dour pace.

Highlights "On a Saturday" -- which began with a left-field, M83-evoking build and added a hint of honky tonk -- and "The Rock" were clap-along, feel-good rompers. Similarly, de facto classic "I Wish that I Could See you Soon" tried a slower arrangement without sacrificing its bittersweet cheerfulness.

Occasional collaborator Julie Doiron turned up for a cover of Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away," which effectively -- and appropriately -- pitted her pretty lilt against David's good-humoured delivery. She stuck around for dusted-off versions of "Good for No One" and "Walk, Don't Run" (both from 2005's Not on Top), the latter evolving into a towering noise jam.

Naturally, a night that incorporated honky tonk and noise rock -- almost seamlessly -- ended with an affecting solo ballad, in this case, David's airy take on the apropos "Wait for the Dead to Live Again." Scruffily charismatic and unexpectedly versatile, Herman Dune played an ultimately charming show.