ODESZA Got Toronto to 11 by Dialing It Down a Notch

History, December 28

With Phantoms

Photo: Katrina Lat

BY Allie GregoryPublished Dec 30, 2023

A minute into their History set, ODESZA already had confetti billowing into the crowd. Leading up to Thursday night (December 28), they'd been on the road supporting their 2022 album, The Last Goodbye, for going on a year and a half, having already played Toronto the summer prior at Budweiser Stage. Their visit to the city this time was decidedly dialled down, but a celebration nonetheless, with Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight taking to the stage without their usual couple dozen marching percussionists. The duo, taking their New Year's Eve week victory lap with a trio of shows in North America, opted for a run of DJ sets with special guests Phantoms to close out 2023.

This year seemed to be the one the duo finally caught the attention of the wider music criticism community after being essentially a well-kept secret among electronic fans for the last decade. Much like Deadheads and even the BTS Army, ODESZA fans are characterized by their loyalty to their favourite band, which was evidenced by the sold-out crowd's enthusiasm to attend a $100-plus show without the promise of actually seeing the duo's usual fare. Thankfully, they delivered a set of fan favourites, blending hits from their latest album and back catalogue with New Year's-appropriate pop cuts in equal measure.

After Phantoms wrapped their vibey warm-up well into the evening, ODESZA took to the stage just after 11:30 p.m., popping up from behind their decks in sync, and opening their set with 2014's "Bloom," setting the tone for what would be a career-spanning exhibition. 

With Knight donning a Blue Jays T-shirt (a nice departure from the typical Raptors worship attendees at Drake's house have become accustomed to), the pair got to work on crowd-pleasing, first with the In Return cut, then working "Say My Name" from the same album into a medley with the aforementioned confetti following shortly after, priming their audience for the colourful explosions to come. 

Their catalogue diversions came mainly in the form of millennial nostalgia-worship, pinning down remixes of Empire of the Sun's "Walking on a Dream," Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," an obligatory Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Heads Will Roll," and multiple Kendrick Lamar tracks early on in the set. Even without their notoriously grandiose stage production to back them up, the pair made do with History's visual system, projecting various animations of their signature icosahedron — one dripping in blood, another encased in chains, etc. — alongside that of PaRappa the Rapper, a vaporwave-esque racing car, Alex Grey-style spiritual symbols, a particularly well-executed animation of a medieval battlefield (with a virtual stand-in drumline) to accompany 2018 standalone "Loyal," and a metric fuck-to n of lights. 

Paying homage to their collaborative album under their BRONSON moniker, ODESZA tipped their hats to Australian co-conspirator Golden Features partway through the evening, before handing down local shoutouts, first to The Last Goodbye contributor, Toronto's own Charlie Houston (as heard on "Wide Awake"), then in a nod to the Weeknd. It was around this time I noticed the damp from an unseasonably warm December combining with the respiratory humidity of the venue to form dripping condensation on the cool air ducts above the barrier, raining down on the already-perspiring dancers below.  

In keeping with the warmth of the club, Knight and Mills would go on to drop a kaleidoscopic mix of Tame Impala's "The Less I Know the Better," a strangely fitting xx hat tip in mixes of both Jamie xx's "Gosh" and Romy's "Enjoy Your Life," a TikTok-indebted round of "Say It Right" by Nelly Furtado, and more millennial-pandering in cuts of "Where's Your Head At" by Basement Jaxx and Kid Cudi's "Day 'n' Nite."

The evening concluded without an encore, closing out on 2022 focal single "The Last Goodbye" — the title track of last year's album, for which the duo borrowed a sample of 1965's "Let Me Down Easy" by Bettye LaVette, leading to the song's own making-of short film — alongside, of course, another round of confetti. 

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