When Trust play a show, the safe bet is to wear your dancing shoes because Robert Alfons’ synth pop project is heavy in the dance floor-friendly, pulsating beats that get people moving. Toronto’s Adelaide Hall was well up for the band’s homecoming show, Alfons still in the very early stages of a tour promoting sophomore record Joyland. Headed to SXSW and with a bunch of dates booked for the summer, it’s shaping up to a hectic year for the Arts & Crafts artist.
While Afons may be busy, he certainly seems to be enjoying himself – his Toronto performance largely spurred on by what I can only imagine to be conspicuous amounts of alcohol. His movements varied between two key themes: jumping around like an excitable jack-in-a-box or draping himself over a microphone, crooning to the crowd in a surprisingly deep voice – like Morrissey if Morrissey’s idea of “animal rights” included the heavy gyration of bodies.
It was a simple stage setup for the band, a few LED lights flashing behind Trust, Alfons flanked by keyboards and drums from Anne Gauthier and Esther Munits. It’s a changed lineup from when the band first started, emerging in 2010 as a project between Alfons and Austra’s Maya Postepski. Together, they released their 2012 debut, TRST, Postepski leaving the project shortly later to focus on Austra. Trust and Alfons don’t seem to be any worse for the absence, however, commanding the stage and exciting the audience on the strength of his live show. Alfons himself seems like an unlikely hero to get bodies writhing, shrouded mostly in darkness and containing his stage banter to fairly shy “thank yous” after some of the songs. And yet, there he was – pulling it off, and pulling it off well.
Loud bass beats were given out in abundance, the live three-piece bringing a big, ambitious sound to Adelaide Hall. Opening song “Capitol,” a single off of Joyland, saw him switch between a deep, almost spoken-word voice on verses and a more energized, dramatic falsetto on its choruses. When he talk-sings, there are definite hints of the Pet Shop Boys. His singing voice, delivered in more of a falsetto, is a different approach entirely but still in keeping with an eighties throwback.
The familiar synth start to “Sulk,” a single from the band’s debut, had the crowd cheering and jumping around, arms raised in the air. “Dressed For Space,” another from the debut, played equally well with the audience.
There was a couple of problems with timing by the three-piece – particularly on the newer tracks. Electronics were slightly out of sync with the drums on “Lost Souls/Eelings” and there were a couple of other instances of instrumentals jumping their cue by a half-second. They’re minor problems, to be fair, and ones that will likely be corrected the more they tour. One thing that’s a bit more of a problem is Alfons’ diction. His lyrical delivery is very much secondary to the instrumentals. For most of the night, he may as well have been singing in German, it was that incomprehensible.
The band returned from their hour-long set to play a three-song encore, daylight savings/lack of sleep be damned. It was past 1:40 am by the time the slowly-pulsating “Candy Walls” finished, the late hour exceptionally fitting for the dark, restless music Trust makes. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a dark, steamy club – Adelaide Hall’s cage-match, wrap-around balcony setup well-suited for the circumstances – but with songs this ambitious and crowds this enthused, it seems inevitable that Trust are headed to much larger venues.