Orville Peck Solidified His Mythology at Toronto Homecoming

Massey Hall, August 9

With Jeremie Albino

Photo: Matt Forsythe

BY Allie GregoryPublished Aug 10, 2022

Orville Peck's first of two performances at Toronto's Massey Hall was a homecoming of sorts: while the masked cowboy originally hails from Johannesburg, he united with his Canadian backing band (members of FRIGS/Bria and Kyle Edward Connolly) in Toronto, where whispers of the current lineup began to take shape all the way back in 2018 prior to the arrival of debut album Pony. Having released sophomore effort Bronco in April, the touring quintet have been on the road pretty much ever since, and it was clear from their very first moments on stage that they were happy to be home.

After Jeremie Albino and his Boardwalk Empire-ready gents warmed the crowd — who were, of course, brimming with fringe, leather, cowboy hats and masks, hoping to catch the eye of their favourite singer — Peck and his tattooed crew got to work on unveiling an expertly curated setlist of tunes old and new.

Only two LPs into his career, it can be hard to remember sometimes that Peck's deepest cuts are only four years old. So much has transpired in that time — his signing to Sub Pop, then Columbia, a tour-halting pandemic, collaborations with Shania Twain, Trixie Mattel, Diplo and more — which is why it was a bold (if a bit sentimental) choice to open this Bronco tour date with debut single "Big Sky." Gone is the era of Peck's brooding, in-the-shadows post-punk anonymity, and to see his newly glam-over-grit persona revisiting this track felt like a full-circle moment, trading in his barroom roots for the city's most historical spotlight, and singing, "Heartbreak is a warm sensation when the only feeling that you know is fear." If this is what fear can look like, may we all hope to feel our hearts break.

Setting that scene only further lent to solidify the mythology of Orville Peck as the band tore into Bronco's lead single "Daytona Sand," whose singalong "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I," as this writer once predicted, reverberated throughout the venue's main floor, balcony and gallery, while Peck himself soaked in the immensity of the moment, unable to hide his glee behind his mask. He and the band ripped through eight more songs — standouts among them being "Turn to Hate," "Winds Change," and a particularly rousing rendition of Show Pony cut "Drive Me Crazy" that saw guitarist Duncan Hay Jennings sitting atop Peck's piano as he played — before the band turned back to the crowd to hand out roses to audience members who dressed up, stood out, sang along or had a "vibe." That break proved enough time for the crooner to gear up for his rapid-fire patter song "Any Turn," which he revealed to be comprised of a series of inside jokes from the road.

The homecoming nature of the show came back around in its third act, which began with Peck's Twain collaboration "Legends Never Die." Despite having just performed her headlining slot this past weekend at nearby Oro-Medonte's Boots and Hearts festival, Twain was sadly not in attendance at Massey for the duet; however, "right-hand woman" Bria Salmena was up to the task, delivering her smokey vocals alongside Peck's and holding her own, as she always does.

Following "Kalahari Down," "Dead of Night" and "Bronco," billowing pillars of orange and blue smoke ushered Peck and the band off stage for a brief moment. Sentimentality grew upon their return when Peck, now stripped of his nudie suit and down to a tank top, remarked on the tour's end, his rise from performing at Horseshoe Tavern, the Monarch and Danforth Music Hall, to now, at this spectacularly revitalized place, sharing that they would offer up the rarely performed "Nothing Fades Like the Light" before heading into "Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)."

Halfway through that final song, Peck paused to hand out his final rose. The audience beamed toward the stage, each member hoping to have the honour bestowed upon them — but no one could complain when the flower was given to his six-year-old niece Daisy, who was celebrating her birthday among the Peck band's extended family backstage. Apparently, in addition to Lana Del Rey and Axl Rose, Daisy's favourite singer is Orville Peck. After last night's event, it's hard to argue with the kid.

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