Concert Review: L’Imperiatrice, April 10, The Opera House

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I’m getting the impression – though my sample size is admittedly still small – that bands from France want you to dance. I saw Daft Punk nearly 15 years ago, Polo & Pan back in December and now L’Imperatrice this past Sunday; and together, they have convinced me that the French are going to bring the grooves and a visual show just as fun as their music!

The 6 piece French-pop, nu-disco centric band are currently touring their second studio album Tako Tsubo and their live performance was a thing to behold. The music and the visual aspects of the show were in sync right from the start, with all the members of the band standing in the dark, lined up at the front of the stage with beating hearts on their chests. The hearts glowed red at first and then started to pulse, faster and faster before the band took to their places and kicked off the show with ‘Off to the Side’. Some bands can struggle to match the quality of their recorded music and others can sound almost identical to it – but it’s been the rare occasion that I’ve gone to see a show and what you witness elevates and evolves the music to another level. And that’s what L’Imperatrice did on Sunday; with lead singer Flore Benguigui asking early on if everyone was ready to dance – before turning some of their slower songs like ‘La Lune’ and ‘Erreur 404′ into absolute jams!

It was easy to be sucked into their playful and energetic vibes, with all the fun everyone on stage seemed to be having. Some super funky baselines backing the songs, various members of the band playing different instruments throughout the show, guitarists rocking out back to back and Flore making her way around the stage to sing and play next to everyone added to the exceptional show they were putting on. There was even a triangle solo at one point!

Their commanding presence on stage meant all eyes were on them for nearly two hours, so the splashing light off the twirling disco ball as guitarist Charles de Boisseguin hit the higher notes on a song, or dimming the lights so that the glowing hearts could be highlighted before they broke into another upswing really added to the experience.

Singing almost entirely in French, this was L’Imperatice’s first time performing in Toronto and if the crowd’s reaction at the end of their encore, where they performed two of their biggest hits ‘Vanille Fraise’ and ‘Agitations Tropicales’ was any indication, they’re going to need to keep us in the rotation the next time they set off on tour.
- Kyle Cadogan

Concert Review: The Districts, April 8, Horseshoe Tavern

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The Districts made their way back up to Toronto this past Friday to play their first show here in nearly 5 years – and they did not disappoint. Playing to a sold out crowd at the Horseshoe Tavern, lead singer Rob Grote spoke about how happy they were to be touring again for their new album Great American Painting and also to finally get to play some songs from their previous album here for the first time as well. Between 2014 and 2017 the band had played Toronto seven times, so this 5 year stretch had certainly built up some anticipation for their return.

With long delayed concerts finally happening more consistently around Toronto, one thing that has been nice to see is that it’s not only the fans that are thrilled to be back in these venues – singing and dancing along to songs they love – but the bands are all so grateful to be back on the road, doing their thing. Playing a mix of songs from all 5 of their albums, the four piece act from Philadelphia made the most of their time on stage, including pulling the lead singer from one of their opening acts – Francis of Delerium – up on stage for a song towards the end of the set. The Indie-Garage Rock vibe was strong, with popular songs “4th & Roebling”, “Cheap Regrets” and newest single “White Devil” really getting the crowd into it. Something in the way all three guitars contribute to the songs, each taking the lead at different times gives the impression of a song that is sprawling yet succinct at the same time. It all culminated in an incredible encore performance of “Young Blood” that clocked in at nearly 9 minutes of pure rock.

All in all, it was a welcome return for a band who continues to impress with each new album they release. I’m certain Toronto will welcome them back again in the future – hopefully much sooner than another 5 years from now!
-Kyle Cadogan

Concert Review: Sierra Ferrell, April 10, Horseshoe Tavern

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Early on in her set at The Horseshoe on Sunday night, West Virginia singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell told a joke about a deer with no eyes or something like that. Before she could say it though, someone in the crowd yelled out the punchline and she never actually finished the joke, so those of us at the back of the room never did hear it. I suppose I could look the joke up to find out the punchline but I prefer to keep the mystery alive instead. I’m sure it was an alright joke though.

Ferrell probably won’t be making the switch to standup comedy, but as the sold out crowd on this night would suggest, she’s doing quite well with her chosen vocation. Touring behind her latest album, 2021’s Long Time Coming, Ferrell and her band played an impressive set of old-timey music that takes influence from bluegrass, jazz and classic country. And also maybe Bon Jovi, as evidenced by the brief snippet of “You Give love A Bad Name” that she threw out in between songs at one point.

Songs like “Give It Time” and “I’d Do It Again” stood out as highlights, while “West Virginia Waltz” included some full on audience participation as she got the crowd to join in on a singalong as she ran through a reprise of the chorus after the song was done. “Y’all sound really good,” she said afterwards and Ferrell would know – throughout her set, her powerful voice came through loud and clear.

Concert Review: The Dip, April 5, Horseshoe Tavern

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After two years of various shows being bumped, rescheduled and cancelled, it finally feels like Toronto is picking up steam as raring-to-go bands roll through – and the anticipation has made these shows all the sweeter.

The Seattle-based 7 piece band The Dip found their way to Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern to play two nights of shows this week on April 5th & 6th and were greeted by a sold out crowd; hyped to sing along, dance and soak up everything the rhythm, blues and pop-centric band had to play for them.

Touring their recently released third album Sticking With It, The Dip jammed their way through nearly 20 songs, including their recent singles “When You Lose Someone” and “Real Contender” as well as hits from their earlier albums. We were treated to an extended version of “Spiderweb”, with each section of the band getting a chance to wow the audience. The three piece brass section, dubbed the ‘Honey-nut Horns’ really put their talents on display, so much so that if I told you they had come up from New Orleans rather than Seattle, you wouldn’t have blinked an eye.

The bar was hot and sticky, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the faces of the fans who were eating up song after song, culminating in everyone singing along with The Dip’s biggest hit from their 2019 album, “Sure Don’t Miss You”.

It’s been nearly three years since the band has been through town, but as they gain more of a following, I can’t see it being that long before they’re back again and playing a bigger venue. So for the people who gathered in the back of the Horseshoe Tavern on these nights, we can all count ourselves lucky for having the chance to see such an up close and connected show with some truly talented musicians.
- Kyle Cadogan