SBTRKT Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, October 31
Published Nov 01, 2014Past the goblins, through the congregation of pirates, turn left at the Cookie Monster and finally you arrive at Aaron Jerome, aka SBTRKT. A Halloween show is probably the only time when the London producer's tribal headgear is the least interesting costume on display. Many of the crowd attempted to replicate SBTRKT's mask, while others simply brandished swords and axes. Regardless of weaponry, all were amped up for the night's performance. Initially, Jerome met that excitement with equal exuberance as he delivered a great version of "Never Never" from his debut LP. He then followed it with the eccentric funk ramblings of "NEW DORP. NEW YORK."
Unfortunately, it was at this point that the show began to run into some technical difficulties. Problems with a broken soundcard stopped the gig in its tracks as the band — consisting of Jerome, a drummer and an extra performer whose musical talents were unclear — attempted to salvage "Look Away" on four separate occasions before giving up entirely. The audience was then subjected to a 15-minute wait, as the errors were righted. Keeping your cool while a gang of mythical creatures get increasingly impatient is no easy feat, but SBTRKT managed to do so, and after a series of apologies he won the crowd over again with "Temporary View."
A large portion of the audience, however, had already abandoned ship at this point, leaving only the diehard fans. Those who stayed were treated to "Higher" and the superb "Wildfire," in which Jerome ceaselessly chopped up the vocals, making for an excellent live rendition. Yet, because so many of SBTRKT's songs are reliant on vocals, and the vocalists in question weren't present for the live performance, his show came off as canned. Here is an artist who has incorporated live instruments into his show and strayed away from a simple laptop setup, but despite his efforts, still managed to sound artificial.
Strangely though, one of the most live-sounding tracks, and a highlight of the night, was SBTRKT's remix of "Lotus Flower" by Radiohead. This was just barely topped by closing track "Pharaohs," the song's lush disco splendour shook every tail and pointed hat in the house. Despite being punctuated with moments of gold, SBTRKT's Toronto performance was ultimately marred by problems and a lack of realism. It seems clear that SBTRKT has the potential to put on a great show, but this one simply wasn't meant to be.
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