Slowdive at Danforth Music Hall, Toronto

Support: Japanese Breakfast
May 5, 2017 at Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
Promoter: Collective Concerts

Under a rainy sky, Canadian shoegaze enthusiasts patiently gathered in front of the Toronto Danforth Music Hall. Undeterred by the dreadful weather that has been relentlessly pestering Torontonians for the past few days, fans of all ages eagerly waited to welcome Slowdive’s triumphant return to Toronto on the day of their comeback record release date. One thing is for sure, the venue upsizing from 2014’s Lee’s Palace to the more spacious and prestigious Danforth Music Hall proved to be a wise one: a few hours after the opening of the doors, the venue was jam-packed with people. From the longtime loyal fans to the younger generations, the diversity of the crowd sharing the venue that night served as a true testament to Slowdive’s timelessness.

Charged with the duty of opening tonight’s show, Japanese Breakfast took to the stage and kicked things off playing their sweet, dreamy brand of indie-pop. Led by the charming and talented Michelle Zauner (of Little Big League), the band provided for a brilliantly executed set of mainly catchy, sugary numbers, propelled by her lively performance and their pristine, enveloping sound. Michelle’s soft, clean vocal melodies led the sound mix impeccably atop the sparkly cloud of sound of the guitar and synth-driven instrumental section. The band spliced in a few notes of melancholy with songs like ‘Jane Cum’ and made for a well-paced show all the while teasing us with no less than four tracks off of their upcoming sophomore record Soft Sounds From Another Planet. As far as opening sets go, I rarely am any more convinced.

Slowdive thus hit the stage a solid hour later, greeted by a well warmed up crowd. Under the applause and cheers of the audience, the band set things off smoothly to the sound of the slow, soothing introductory notes of ‘Slomo’, the opening track to their freshly released comeback record. Slowdive and Souvlaki each took up a third of the night’s setlist, new songs like ‘Sugar for the Pill’ blending effortlessly into the set alongside old classics like ‘Alison’ or ‘Machine Gun’. Although the lighting tech seemed to be having some murderous outbursts against Slowdive fans with epilepsy at times, the stage’s massive backdrop provided for some nice trippy visuals to make up for the bands’ static stage presence (we don’t call it “shoegaze” for nothing). Wailing sustained guitar notes echoed amidst the hazy, smooth soundscapes, taking the audience back to the sweet, melancholic moods of the 90’s through the layers of smooth sound textures.

The performance did however have its few regretful shortcomings in the vocal department, be it through its loud, dry mix or through its delivery. While the Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell pairing did manage to retain the angelic clarity of their old vocal lines, they did sound a little tired and occasionally off-pitch. With that being said, the quality of the overall show did make up for these hiccups.This is definitely the Slowdive we remember and love, best shown through their timeless rendition of ‘Souvlaki Space Station’ or the long, blissful swells of ‘Golden Hair’ by Syd Barrett. 13 songs into the set, the band left the stage before coming back up for a 3 song encore comprised of ‘Slowdive’, the new ‘No Longer Making Time’ and the classic ’40 Days’ to close the evening.

As one might expect from a Slowdive show, this was a fairly laid-back show, one that was unlikely to win over new fans with its ticket pricing but one that will have sent fans home content and optimistic for the bands’ future output. Let us hope that the choice of a self-titled fourth record does indeed point towards a new beginning rather than an end.

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