Weyes Blood Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, May 24
Published May 25, 2019Weyes Blood (aka Natalie Mering) has done the rounds in Toronto, playing many of its cosiest venues over the years. Her performance at the Horseshoe Tavern was destined to mark the end of those days.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that she would be returning in the fall to play the much larger Phoenix Concert Theatre, which can fit almost 1,000 more bodies. It's a major upgrade, but considering how quickly this gig sold out and word of her fourth album, Titanic Rising, has spread, Weyes Blood has no doubt earned it (she will also open up for Kacey Musgraves in September).
Titanic Rising is the timeliest of albums, one that contemplates the natural world's greatest threats, though acting more as a beacon of hope than a doomsayer. Seeing Mering and her four supporting bandmates, it seemed as if it might be an impossible task to recreate the album's opulent studio sound, but wow, did they ever execute the songs with deceptive ease.
Album reviews often compare Mering's voice to the angelic Karen Carpenter, and she has a natural gift; those smooth, elegant breaths sound even more impressive on stage. She wispily crooned Front Row Seat to Earth's "Used to Be," which sounded very much at home alongside the new material — like the springy "Everyday," on which she nailed the hypnotic melodies, and the quixotic folksong "Andromeda."
At times Mering had the crowd eating out of her hand in between songs: "You guys look real good from here," she said to break the ice; "I don't say that to every audience."
She opened the floor to discussion, agreeing to a scream of "Game of Thrones sucks!" and then recognized that she was standing in the town where Kids in the Hall was born. "That show was the best. I learned a lot about music from the Brain Candy soundtrack."
But she didn't digress from the music. "Enough about comedy. I'm gonna play some more sad songs," she said before dipping into oldie "Seven Words" and the powerful "Movies," where she twirled around to the arpeggiating synths and in the song's climax. A cover of "God Only Knows" seemed almost too obvious a choice for an Angeleno, but her transcendent soprano and the rather minimal arrangement made it a commendable tribute.
For the encore, Weyes Blood chose two older songs — Front Row Seat to Earth's slow-burning "Generation Why" and The Innocents' "Bad Magic," which she performed solo on guitar — and it seemed like a strategic move: to leave us with the most stripped-down songs of the night to ensure her voice on full display.
After all, the next time she comes to town, this kind of intimacy might be lost; it's only bigger venues from here on in for a talent as enchanting as Weyes Blood.