Lee's Palace, Toronto ON April 1

BY E.D. CauchiPublished Apr 2, 2010

There was no introduction, but when your voice is as hauntingly soulful as Jonathan Meiburg's, there's no need for one. With a swift chord, Shearwater took flight at Lee's Palace, delivering their new hit "Black Eyes" off the group's latest release The Golden Archipelago. The fivesome from Austin, TX have this sort of country sound of a western ghost town, with subtle jazz riffs, high-powered drums and purposeful feedback thrown into the mix. They're completely harmonious, so it doesn't seem odd when maracas, clarinet and glockenspiel are thrown into the mix.

"How dark can we make it in here?" Meiburg asked. He's answered twofold as the stage became cloaked in shadows and the tune turned to a dirgeful ballad. There's a gentle violence to their music, complemented by the singer's smoothly charming falsetto that he bashfully admitted is left over from his childhood days as a boy soprano. But there was nothing boyish about this performance: Shearwater commanded the attention of a rapt audience with their relaxed yet controlled melody that communicates a furious passion.

What makes Shearwater so striking is the dichotomy of band members' quirkiness and accessibility. On record, the almost non-stop high notes may be a bit much, but the added dimension of live performance makes Shearwater's risk-taking nature engrossing. And live is the best way to appreciate their multifaceted sound. It's a bit like visiting a gallery: you will need to have an appreciation for art, but if you do, the experience provides an inimitable richness.

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