Laufey Was More Than Just Vibes in Toronto

Massey Hall, April 30

With Wasia Project

Photo: Stephen McGill

BY Rachel Evangeline ChiongPublished May 1, 2024

How do you make a Laufey set interesting? When the highs are unassuming bossa nova bops and the lows are ballads gentle as falling snow, how do you keep a restless audience enrapt for an hour and half? At Laufey's Tuesday night Massey Hall set, there were no coffee shops to browse, no dinners to multi-task, no second monitors to game on, no homework to review and no books to read. (This last one is technically untrue — Queen Books was selling novels from Laufey's book club by the merch table).

So, my curiosity was potent. As I sat among a sea of coquette bows and sun dresses, I wondered how Laufey and the touring crew would broach this challenge. After the Wasia Project opened and shook the stage to its core, an undercurrent of worry began to rise. The indie-pop sibling duo and live band had ripped dance jams that battered the balcony and  eased through pensive ballads reflecting on grief. Despite headlining, would Laufey's more laid-back repertoire feel one-note? It turns out my fears were unfounded — the magic of lighting, seamless transitions and self-aware set building shaped a dynamic show.  

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The stage lights painted the canvas. There was no need for props or an oversized screen that only would have clashed with Massey Hall's old money, buttoned-up style. Instead, the lighting technicians sustained a variety and pomp that kept the story-telling alive. 

At the mention of blue birds in "I Wish You Love," the entire stage was bathed in blue, while massive but cozy rounded lights alternated behind the band like giant sunflowers during warmer songs like "Fragile." "Goddess" was especially narrative; from the balcony you could watch a wave of light wash the audience up in the upper balcony then rush dramatically onto Laufey as she sang the pivotal "I'm a goddess on stage" line. The dressings were romantically dream-like, a whole sheath of twinkling stars backdropping the entire stage, reflecting off the glossy floor like wet streetlights in the rain.

A solid bastion of seamless transitions between numbers was equally important for setting the mood. Laufey carefully and conservatively distributed banter and instrumentals, though more often the live band would take on solos before a song, either the string quartet swelling into the verse or the rhythm section launching into a duet. Laufey kept the chatting at a minimum, letting her lyrics do the talking. 

When she did talk, she stuck to quirky anecdotes, recalling her almost-meet-cute with a stranger on the London tube seconds before pirouetting into "Beautiful Stranger." She broached each introduction with sweet, tactile wit, and it was always exhilarating when she dropped the trigger phrase in her brief monologues that sent the audience into pealing screams when they recognized what hit was next.

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In fact, the audience participation felt like classic Laufey 101. Singalongs reigned supreme throughout the show, Massey Hall transforming into a loft for a whole choir of Laufeys. The set carefully spaced out the TikTok hits that even the casual fans could sing along to, and occasionally Laufey would cheekily fall back on the chorus (like on "Valentine"), intentionally lagging behind vocally and letting the audience lead the song. These moments were the ideal pick-me-ups — whenever the set reached morose, denser levels, you could rest assured a fan favourite was right at its heels to snap everyone back to attention.

Laufey, the stage crew and the band transformed what could have been a tepid easy-listening playlist into a definitive live show. As her lengthy tour continues into September, each city can expect a night full of swoons and vivid memories to look back on. You can definitely leave your Kindle at home.

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