Published Oct 16, 2013For those unable to catch Northern Ireland dance punk three-piece Two Door Cinema Club on their first forays into Toronto (including a whammy of a double-bill with DFA-esque UK dance collective Friendly Fires in 2012), the enigmatic trio finally returned for a stint at the Danforth Music Hall, this time with a pair of up-and-coming acts from across the Commonwealth.
Drawing straws first was British rock collective Peace. While their name recalled the flower-child songwriting of the '60s, the West Midlands four-piece was all '90s for their Ontario debut. Coming off as some sort of songwriting mash-up between the Stone Roses and the Libertines (or Palma Violets, for you young ones), the band provided sparkly pop vignettes with the kind of stylistic poise and dexterous musicianship found in groups twice their age. But with all that musical maturity, it was hard at times to figure out what exactly the young quartet wanted to accomplish. Was it the sophisto-rock of Brett Anderson's Suede (turtleneck-wearing lead singer Harry Koisser), the British dandyism of Blur (Koisser's brother and Alex James look-a-like Samuel), or the space-y vibe and technical prowess of Ride (drummer Dominic Boyce)? It was hard to tell, and while tracks like "Wraith" and "Higher Than the Sun" shone brightly, one couldn't help but imagine how they'd sound with just a little bit more self-assuredness.
After a short break, New York-via-South Africa '80s-revivalists St. Lucia joined the venue in a haze of neon lights and patterned button-ups. The by-product of singer-songwriter Jean-Philip Grobler — a Johannesburg-born musician and apparent Talk Talk fanatic — took only a few seconds to get the crowd jumping to his quintet's atmospheric musings and plush beats. But while the increasingly intoxicated audience seemed content dancing to washed-out synthesizers and heart-rattling bass drums, most audiophiles in attendance probably noticed the sonic murkiness of the band's performance, which suffered from mismatched audio levels between the group's three separate keyboard setups.
But if the evening's first two sets were plagued by musical uncertainty and mushy sound, that only added to the anticipation for the night's final act. As the dancefloor grew darker and early-2000s memories pumped from the monitors (Nelly's "Ride wit Me," Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'" and Dr. Dre's "Still Dre," just to name a few), Two Door Cinema Club took the stage to a flurry of spiraling spotlights, picking up their instruments and jumping into high-octane versions of "Sleep Alone," "Undercover Martyn," and "Do You Want it All?" The band's impressive light display continued to narrowly give the crowd epileptic seizures as the group raced through muscular renditions from their two studio albums and recent Changing of the Seasons EP, playing the four-song set's title-track, followed by Beacon ripper "Wake Up" and "Come Back Home."
While the band's early detractors may have dismissed frontman Alex Trimble as a poor man's Ben Gibbard supported by an ADD-afflicted guitarist and an At the Drive In-inspired rhythm section, it was empowering to watch the enigmatic lead singer strut around the stage as he delivered crowd-pleasing renditions of "You're Not Stubborn" and "Ocean Blue" with the nuance of a young Morrissey, as lead guitarist Sam Halliday provided his distinctive top octave guitar noodlings atop bassist Kevin Baird's filthy precision playing.
As the strobe-heavy set continued, the group displayed their true showmanship, pausing like statues at the height of the blistering "I Can Talk" for some much needed sonic tension, and throwing in some tempo-changing riffing on "Handshake" before ending with "Eat That Up, It's Good For You."
After a brief encore, the band returned to a sweaty theatre to polish off the evening with some of their biggest hits, including last year's "Someday." But like true performers, the Irish trio left their best for last, stirring the crowd into a frenzy with career-defining single "What You Know," before leaving the stage in an explosion of noise.
Turning a Tuesday evening theatre into a Saturday night dance party is no easy task, but as the houselights came on and the anthemic outfit's guitars gave way to the sweet sounds of Hall & Oates over the venue's loudspeakers, the audience merged as one, dancing together while praising the band at the same time, chanting in unison: "You make my dreams come true."