How to Dress Well / Forest Swords Virgin Mod Club, Toronto ON, March 29

How to Dress Well / Forest Swords Virgin Mod Club, Toronto ON, March 29
Photo: Tiana Feng
If the 7:30 p.m start time had you second-guessing whether or not to attend the How To Dress Well & Forest Swords show, you probably missed one of the best shows of the year thus far. The next chapter in the HTDW saga found a packed room of fans lost in the emotions that bled from singer Tom Krell as he performed a set of mostly new material from a forthcoming album he revealed will be titled What Is This Heart.

Accompanied by a full live band, which included Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene on drums, the R&B crooner performed a new dance song, a pop-punk song and a few smooth, emotional power ballads that found him channeling a bigger sound and taking his vocal range to levels never heard before.

The muggy Saturday evening began with about 20 people present as Forest Swords came on stage and began their set. Producer Matthew Barnes, along with a shoeless bass player, had the small crowd bopping their heads right away as they started off with some soothing noise and light reverb. "Thor's Stone" kicked the cinematic experience into high gear as Barnes and his bassist, both armed with guitars, prepared to do battle.

Like samurais, the two bowed with instruments in hand, then proceeded to shred over Barnes' dark, trickling production as gorgeous white pedals fell from inside the huge screen behind them. As the room slowly began to fill up, the duo continued their flawless performance, engaging the crowd with a stunning visual component that transformed all of the tracks off their highly acclaimed album, Engravings, into a breathtaking mini movie.

Their set ended with a heartfelt thank you as they exited the stage and a sweet mix of hip hop jams kept the crowd vibing until Tom Krell, along with his new live band, took the stage for their headlining performance. Krell walked on stage with grey suede Nikes on and greeted the audience with the big smile, as he kicked off with brand new material from his next album. Early highlights came in the form of "The Power" and "What You Wanted," two new tracks that showcase Krell's complete evolution from bedroom producer to full-blown R&B superstar. He followed the beginning and end of each new track with a funny, yet slightly awkward, play-by-play of their creation, feeling out the reaction of the crowd, all of which seemed pumped about the new material.

The night took an emotional turn when Krell began "Suicide Dreams 1" from his debut album, Love Remains, about his best friend who passed away after the song was released. This moment found the audience teary, as they watched him battle through the heartbreaking song with earnestness, using his sadness to deliver some of the most beautiful moments of the night. Krell played a few more new jams, leading up an incredible finale that had fans wanting more as he left the stage.

For his encore, he returned to the stage and talked for ten minutes about his love for children and wanting to have a baby someday, which led to an eager fan offering up her womb multiple times during his speech. He ended the night with a gorgeous lullaby he wrote for his friend's baby, about the beauty and sadness of the world she'll grow up in. His final exit left a packed Mod Club in awe of the beauty they just witnessed. If last night's preview is any indication, How To Dress Well's new album should blow his previous efforts right out of the water.

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