George Lewis Jr., the spearhead behind Twin Shadow, is a confident man, whose recently released sophomore album Confess is full of dark swagger, discussing love, sex, and the vast space between. It should come as no surprise then, that his live show manages to feel like a grand yet intimate spectacle, even within the small confines of a venue like Toronto’s Lee’s Palace.
Monday’s show at Lee’s was the first of this tour, which sees Poolside opening for Lewis. Poolside is a good act in their own right, currently gaining steam thanks to their stellar debut Pacific Standard Time, their live show should win them fans as well. The band, who describe their music as ‘daytime disco’ perform without pretense and build momentum as their set proceeds.
Coming out to a less than packed house, Poolside started things off slowly, with the sultry ‘Next to You’. The bass lines on all of their tracks are understated yet great on record, and they stand out live, shaking everything from bottles to teeth. A duo on record, Poolside expands to a foursome live, each member seemingly enjoying the music as much as the audience, with gyrations, hops and handclaps aplenty on stage.
It was quite obvious that the people packed inside of Lee’s were there to see headliner Twin Shadow, but they were more than appreciative of Poolside, especially when the band laid into some of their funkier tracks like ‘Why You Wanna’ and ‘Do You Believe’. The California act’s album is full of high pitched airy harmonies, something which is notably more difficult to pull off live, but they did so with ease.
The highlight of the opening act came when the band covered Neil Young‘s ‘Harvest Moon’, much of this can surely be attributed to the Canadian crowd, but the cover (which I’ve touted here recently) is well crafted in its own right. The handclaps which abound in Poolside’s music were often mimicked by what was by the end of their set a packed and buoyant crowd, setting the scene well for the big show.
That is not to suggest that George Lewis Jr. needs any help setting the mood. After a relatively short break, Lewis took to the stage all by his lonesome with just his guitar, bathed in a bright white light he tore into a quiet personal performance of ‘The One’. The track is a campy Morrisey influenced experience on record, but live that camp is replaced with powerful singing.
The acoustic energy developed by that quick start was funneled straight into fan favourite ‘Five Seconds’, a performance that had Lee’s as lively as I’ve ever seen it. A venue painted in black and dimly light is a great place for a song both brooding and enticing, that’s what ‘Five Seconds’ is, and that’s what Twin Shadow’s performance was as a whole.
An act that pays tribute to 80′s heroes like the afforementioned Morrisey and his Smiths, as well as Prince, Depeche Mode and even Springsteen at times, it is easy to see why Twin Shadow has a strong niche following. That following was treated to more favourites throughout the set, with songs like the aptly titled ‘When We’re Dancing’ had many dancing to their own beat while trying to stay in time with Shadow’s. One unique aspect of Twin Shadow is he gets those people you might not expect to dance, those who tend to stick to the shadows and perhaps be misconceived as ‘wallflowers’ doing just that.
Twin Shadow is not afraid to slow things down, and that happened towards the end of the set, with the dirge of ‘Castles in the Snow’. ‘Castles…’ made way for what might be one of Lewis’ most honest tracks yet, the rumination on lust that is ‘I Don’t Care’. With added electronics, ‘I Don’t Care’ transfers from an honest confessional on record to an affecting live song nicely.Even during the slower moments of the set, the crowd remained enthusiastic, and what better measure of a concert is there? The crowd at Lee’s was so into it that a pair of underwear made it on stage, perhaps not the variety that Twin Shadow was hoping for, a large black pair of men’s briefs. Lewis had some fun with it all, asking an audience member to sniff them while they were draped over the mic so all could hear the inhale…sadly, nobody complied.
This may have been the first night of this tour, but it felt like a celebration, perhaps everyone was celebrating what is still ahead for both Poolside and Twin Shadow.