Nightmares on Wax The Hoxton, Toronto ON, November 20
Published Nov 21, 2013The show began with some rudimentary percussion from a drummer and a bongo player, sporting full robes, chimes, incense, and possibly the largest rattle to have ever graced The Hoxton stage. For a moment, the duo could have been mistaken for another support act, but the emergence of George Evelyn, a.k.a. Nightmares on Wax, made short work of that theory. To everyone's delight, Evelyn was accompanied by three singers who dove straight into "Now is the Time," the runaway highlight from recent album Feelin' Good.
As the seamless blend of the track's funk and reggae elements kicked life into the crowd, the bar was set high from the outset. From the gig's tropical opening, the proceedings were immediately cooled down with the down-tempo grooves of "Give Thx." Here, the crowd was introduced to the vocal talents of a man simply referred to as 'Moses,' whose voice is just as powerful as his name suggests. Despite the fact that this is an undeniably chill tune, Evelyn was playing the role of bass overlord, so the walls still rumbled under his guidance.
Often when a lone producer tours with a full band, they tend to take a backseat — as is the case with artists like Bonobo or Aim — because their compositions being transferred to a live format sometimes leaves them with little to do. While this is also true of Nightmares on Wax, he is heavily involved in the energy of the show. Frequently getting on the mic and taking centre stage for a casual dance, he made his presence known throughout.
In contrast to Evelyn, however, was the band's only female vocalist, who delivered such a timid rendition of "Survival" from Carboot Soul that it barely travelled five feet past the stage. Anyone who was close enough to hear her would have immediately clocked that she has a great voice — one that would fit neatly onto a Portishead record — but she was just too reserved for a group with so much zeal. The rest of the band's vigour more than made up for this flaw though, as they injected newfound fervour into classic tracks like "Flip Ya Lid," "African Pirates" and "You Wish." What could have been a gig dedicated solely to new material ended up being as much of a retrospective remembrance package as an outlet for contemporary work. It was a show that looked forwards and backwards through soul-tinted glasses and left everyone with the task of cleaning a thick layer of funk from their person upon exiting the venue.