Concert Review: Austra @ Danforth Music Hall, Toronto (Canadian Music Week 2013)
Toronto’s very own Austra headlined Saturday night at Danforth Music Hall. PeteHatesMusic was there for our continued coverage of Canadian Music Week. Below is our review of the show, which seems to be a contest to see how many times I can write the word “dance” or variations of it.
The band took the stage at 10:40pm, with 6 members on stage. We had the twins on both the left and right sides of the stage, twirling and moving around like belly dancers, and providing backing vocals. Singer Katie Stelmanis wore a denim-looking onesie that gave her the “I just escaped from prison” vibe. Apparently this is also a fashion blog. Austra kicked things off with The Choke. The intro had more of a piano than synth sound heard on the record. The stunning range of vocals that Stelmanis displays across the album thankfully translates to the live show.
The next track was a new one off of upcoming album, Olympia. The track featured a looping synth part and a heavy bottom end. Twins Sari and Romy Lightman continued their constant movement and slow spinning, while doing some call and response vocals with Stelmanis . After the song, Stelmanis noted “We’re going to play a bunch of new stuff, I hope that’s okay.” If not, refunds are available?
The 3rd track had a electronic beginning not far off something Atoms for Peace might do, but shifting into a more dancey territory. The track was upbeat and once again showed off Stelmanis’ great vocal range. Her voice was LOUD – I thought on several occasions the mic might’ve been a touch on the loud side. No, I’m not a cranky old man. “What do I have to do to have you forgive me” were some of the new lyrics, which is also a phrase I ask my cat on a regular basis.
A slow track was the next new one, with the stage lighting being quite dark. The 3 vocalists burst into harmony before the chorus, and then the fantastic, synth-heavy chorus came next. Definitely a stand out new track.
Lose It was next, and ellicited big cheers from the audience. There were great vocal layers and parts in the live setting. I cannot stress enough how excellent Stelmanis’ vocal range and ability is. It’s like Dallas Green in that you hear its excellence on the album, and figure no one can actually do that live – there must be some studio trickery. But no, they are just amazing vocalists that make it seem easy.
Darken Her Horse was the sixth song on tap, with cheers in anticipation of the song’s build up at the start. Stelmanis commented on the amazingness of Blood Ceremony, who preceded them earlier in the night.
We were treated to a more dancey version of The Future, which kept the crowd moving and shaking. It was a surprisingly vibrant crowd, with a great reception for Blood Ceremony, and lots of movement for Austra. Stelmanis tried to make some small talk, but then noted “I don’t know why, but it’s so awkward when you’re in your home town.”
The next track had a sort of 80s crashing percussion retro sound like Chariots of Fire, which switched over to a harp synth sound in the chorus.
We saw the return of Alia O’Brien from Blood Ceremony, as Stelmanis called her up for their new track, Home. The confidence and composure O’Brien showed when she was on stage before seemed to leave her, and she seemed like that awkward girl in high school hanging out with the cool kids for the first time. She stayed to the side of the stage, and tried to get some cues when to go to the mic and play her part. Granted, she likely just learned the part and might not have even practiced it, but she was a little awkward at times. Enough dwelling on that, Home was another danceable song – Stelmanis wasn’t lying when she said Olympia was a little more dancey. O’Brien’s live flute added a cool dimension to the track.
The highlight of the night was the stunning intro to Beat and the Pulse. The band started a little dance party of their own on stage. As the intro built, pretty much everyone in the crowd was dancing. After the track, the band left the stage having played for 50 minutes.
The encore saw Feel It Break tracks The Villain and then Spellwork played, and with that, the band were off to a DJ set. The concert showed off the new songs of Austra, and we were definitely excited by the new tracks. Stelmanis has a great vocal range, as noted several times, and it did not disappoint in the live setting – it might have been more impressive than the record. All in all, a great show by the band. Check out some more photos on our Facebook page.
PHM Rating of Austra: 9 / 10