Rachel Zeffira Drake, Toronto ON, May 2

Rachel Zeffira Drake, Toronto ON, May 2
Photo: Carrie Musgrave
It can be easy, and often the default route, for a solo artist to take a record on the road and translate their music live using whatever minimal instruments they have, but that is not how Rachel Zeffira operates. The Kootenays, BC native created a multilayered, visionary piece of work on her debut album, The Deserters, and almost every element is presented live from an oboist and cellist to a pair of backup singers.

Songs take full form, such as on opening number, "The Deserters," where Zeffira's sweeping piano is met with key oboe and cello components or on the poignant cover of fhe Beatles' "Because" that appeared expertly rehearsed for someone who had, in fact, just met her backup singers that day. Zeffira is right to mastermind these arrangements in a live setting because otherwise her work can fall flat, spiralling into a one-dimensional singer-piano combo, but instead we got The Deserters in its full glory.

All of these players crowd the stage (six extra members were counted), but Zeffira still shines the brightest with her hauntingly crystal tone. The multi-instrumentalist shifted between posts onstage — "Apparently I'm difficult," she mused as she approached the organ and marimba, which she admitted took several people to transport downstairs at the Drake Hotel — but the audience followed her every move, so transfixed in the performance that we could hear a pin, or plastic cup, drop between songs.

Zeffira might not have been the focal point of Cat's Eyes, her collaborative project with the Horrors' Faris Badwan, but she has since stepped out and claimed the spotlight, one that will surely remain on her for many albums and tours to come.