There seems to be a lot of buzz around MS MR. For a while there it was impossible to watch a YouTube video without seeing a promo for first single “Hurricane.” While not a sold out all-ages crowd, it was certainly a good venue choice for the band and a definite upgrade from their last appearance at Toronto’s Wrongbar in May 2013. But even with all the hype, it was amazing to hear the number of people at The Phoenix with no idea on how to pronounce the band’s name.
So let’s get it out of the way now. No – it’s not pronounced M-S-M-R. It’s Miss, Mister. Not so hard, right?
I digress. What you do take away from MS MR’s live performance is that the studio two-piece (who are actually a quartet on stage) is having a whole lot of fun with it. Vocalist Lizzy Plapinger is a head turner, both for her smoky vocals and for her stage presence. Clad in a leather jacket and short zebra-print skirt and rocking neon green hair and a ring pop on her finger, Plapinger is definitely the live focal point. While there are some comparisons to Florence and the Machine and Chvrches being floated around, I’d probably have to go with Miley Cyrus on this one. Now hear me out – I do have a reason for saying this and it has nothing to do with twerking or riding a wrecking ball in the buff. What I mean is: Plapinger and Cyrus have similar timbres to their voices and she probably does some mean “We Can’t Stop” karaoke.
Plapinger’s partner in crime, Max Hershenow, did his part to entertain as well – jumping up and down, clapping, interacting with the crowd, and at one point almost wiping out as he tried to jump up on a speaker. Admittedly though, it’s a bit of a task to stay the focal point when you’re stuck behind a keyboard. There were also some slight early problems with his vocals, Hershenow far too loud in the mix on set opener “Bones.”
Fourth song “Think Of You” did well with the crowd, as did slower number “BTSK.” On the latter, Plapinger showed off her sweet voice on the chorus “big teeth, small kiss” and the band proved their power with electronic orchestral samples.
“Three years ago Lizzy and I hardly knew each other,” Hershenow told the crowd. “I didn’t know I could produce anything and she didn’t know how to sing anything.” With that, they launched into the first song they ever recorded together – a cover of Patrick Wolf’s “Time Of My Life.” Surprisingly, for a song they have such history with, it was one of the lower points of the evening and evidenced the problem in having a one-album repertoire. With only one full-length to their name – 2013’s Secondhand Rapture – relying on covers is necessary to flesh out a set, but it might be time to lose the Patrick Wolf.
To their credit, the NYC band played another cover that was a considerably better choice. LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” was a natural fit for her vocals and the band handled its dance floor friendly elements well. Before ending with the aforementioned and well-received “Hurricane,” Hershenow warned the crowd that it would actually be their last song – there would be no encore to the hour-long set. His parting words were apt for the show and the band as a whole: “What you see is what you get with MS MR.” It’s a promising start, but there’s going to have to be more to get people coming back.
Thanks to Live Nation for media access.