TOY / Spires Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, January 14
Published Jan 15, 2014While an English teenaged Bob Dylan wannabe sold out the 3000-capacity Sound Academy, on the other side of town, countrymen TOY were flooring an audience in the much cosier Horseshoe Tavern. In a parallel universe, the venues would be reversed, but in this one Brighton's TOY celebrated their first visit to Canada with an unforgettable performance.
Spires warmed up the stage with some unabashed Britpop throwback that seemed almost genuine, had it been 1994. They definitely fit the mould of a TOY tour-mate, however, upon learning they're actually Brooklynites, it all felt a bit contrived, like they were paying homage to Cast.
TOY weren't ones for conversation, addressing the crowd twice only, to say hello and goodbye. But their actions spoke loud enough to make up for their reticence. Failing to make it over to capitalize on their 2012 self-titled debut, they made up for it with their underrated sophomore album, December's Join the Dots. The five-piece treated the show like a proper introduction, keeping the set to a lean nine songs in just under an hour.
Even dividing their catalogue, they blessed the three-quarters-full crowd with their most recognizable songs. The propulsive, motoric rhythm of debut single "Let Myself Behind" was so bang on, it was almost questionable as to whether drummer Charlie Salvidge was simply miming to the drum track. Obviously not, but TOY's proficiency was remarkable.
They appeared especially tight on the wistfully dream pop "Endlessly" and "My Heart Skips A Beat," two studio creations that seemed destined for dramatic re-workings on stage, but were masterfully performed. And on more jam-based cuts like "Motoring" and "Join the Dots," the band found their hypnotic groove, inspiring a sea of head-nodding and eyebrow-raising once the climax hit.
True, TOY's presentation lacked without a light show to heighten the experience (strobes, smoke and lasers, anything could've worked), they thrilled without even interacting with their fans. And with that kind of talent, they could be eventually be playing on the other side of the city in the not-so-distant future.