Photographs by Sarah Rix
It was two days of Two Door Cinema Club shows in Toronto, and they seemed to have one of the hottest tickets in town. With the trio making the kind of upbeat, poppy rock that puts anyone in a good mood, there’s reason for it. People like to dance – and at a Two Door Cinema Club show, it’s pretty much guaranteed.
While I was fortunately one of the 400 people to find themselves at the sold-out Mod Club a day earlier, I was still excited about seeing Two Door perform to an equally sold-out crowd of 1,150 people at the Danforth a day later. This is a band that’s come a long way in a relatively short period of time.
Back in 2010, their first Toronto visit was another sold-out affair, but at a much smaller Wrongbar. Then, the Irish dance rockers were touring their Tourist History debut without much buzz – just on the strength of their songs alone. Thanks to tracks like “Something Good Can Work”, “I Can Talk”, and “What You Know”, the album has since gone on to Platinum status. At that Wrongbar show, they didn’t even have a live drummer – a strange thought given the key role that touring drummer Benjamin Thompson has taken up. While not a member of the band in any formal capacity, Thompson’s inclusion has certainly perked up the live show, kept the kids coming back, and gotten the dance floor moving.
They band has also expanded their repertoire in the last couple of years with the addition of a second full-length; 2012’s Beacon. While TDCC has already played shows here in support of it, the additional material’s a welcome expansion to their catalogue. “Sun”, one of its singles, drew a huge cheer and sing along from the crowd as the stage fittingly glowed yellow. Sadly the song included some pre-recorded horn bits, as it does on record. It detracted from the overall live performance and, while arguably necessary, it’d be even better if they could figure out a way to do them live.
Tourist History opener “Cigarettes in the Theatre” also suffered from a similar ending of pre-recorded horns. It sounded cool, but pointed out the obvious absence of an actual horn player. It’s reasonable for them to keep things limited, but it does make things a bit Milli Vanilli. If they could come up with fixes for those gaps, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Yes – it’d be a laborious task and an elaborate undertaking, but I can’t help but think of how great it could be.
And that would be the main critique. It’s all fun and great to watch, but with a pre-recorded backing track providing much of the unique aspects to their songs, it’s highly noticeable and it can get old pretty quickly – especially in a larger venue, without that sense of intimacy. Take, for example, Beacon’s “The World Is Watching”. Vocalist Alex Trimble introduced the number by explaining the band recorded it with “a lovely artist named Valentina.” He asked for the audience to lend a hand by filling in for her absence by singing along to the chorus of “I want you here with me.” They obliged, making her backing track pretty much unnecessary. If Two Door is looking to take things a step up, their next move will be to invest in some more on-stage musicians – or just get the more than willing crowd to help out.
Apart from album tracks, new EP Changing of the Seasons got some time in the spotlight with the title track coming out early on. It would have been nice to hear one or both of the other new songs, but – for likely technical reasons – they opted out of performing both “Crystal” and “Golden Veins”. A shame, too, given they’re tracks that venture into expanding musical territories for the young band.
Nevertheless, there were a lot of good moments during the night as well. Trimble earned his keep, switching between keys, guitars, and a glass of wine for the majority of the set and belting out fan favourites like “Come Back Home” with remarkable vocal clarity. Not to be outdone, bassist Kevin Baird was strong on second number “Undercover Martyn” and even took time to tell the crowd: “I’m really enjoying your Moosehead beer. I hear it’s your oldest one.”
Production wise, it’s also clear the Two Door have invested heavily in their light show with flashing LED’s glinting behind them at opportune moments. During “Next Year”, airport codes scrolled up their lengths as Trimble sang of long distance love. The band also had some fun with the equipment, Baird and guitarist Sam Halliday jumping up on a pair of light boxes for the instrumental bridge in “I Can Talk”. It was undoubtedly rehearsed, but still pretty cool looking.
Apart from the lights, Halliday’s high, spazzy guitar notes permeated the 19-song set, giving it all a sense of urgency. “Something Good Can Work” was a highlight, Trimble taking lead guitar on the first bit and speeding up the introductory first few notes before the electronics kicked in. Both “Something Good Can Work” and “Eat That Up, It’s Good For You” had the audience belting back the lyrics with much enthusiasm.
“Toronto, I love this city,” Trimble explained to the crowd before set closer “What You Know”. He continued: “We’ve spent a wonderful three days here and I can’t wait to come back.” While I’m already looking forward to seeing them again (and believe me, they’re worth seeing live for the energy alone,) I really hope they can figure out how to replicate the best parts of their albums in a live setting. They did it before with a drummer, so it’s not out of the question that they’d be able to do it again. It would add that extra something and take Two Door from sugar for the iPod to absolute live excellence for the inevitably bigger stages.