A hectic Tuesday night in Toronto saw audiences splitting their allegiances and having to make difficult scheduling decisions. While some headed to the east end to see Flying Lotus at the Danforth, others went further south for Angus & Julia Stone. If that wasn’t enough on offer, the west welcomed Tame Impala offshoots Pond.
I had resolved myself, many months ago, to skip all of those acts in favour of Temples – a four-piece touring 2014 debut Sun Structures. The band had swung through Toronto twice already (once at the Horseshoe and once at Lee’s Palace) but I had managed to miss out on both of those sets. While I had caught most of Temples’ performance at Osheaga back in August, their October set seemed the perfect opportunity to see them give Sun Structures the proper headlining spot it deserved. And so it was in the very appropriate Mod Club on an even more appropriate drizzly Tuesday evening that a healthy swarm of fans gathered to see the English band.
It seemed the double bill of Temples and openers The Districts was enough to sway more than a few decisions – many in the audience there for the first set from a young band.
Philadelphia four-piece The Districts play the type of unhinged rock n’ roll that’s easily risen them to the starter status of cult favourites – both Rolling Stone and The Guardian singing the band’s praises. While the entirety of their show was chock full of laudable moments, the set’s big reveal came with its finish: the band coming together for a huge instrumental ending. If you had any doubts of The Districts’ abilities in the earlier portion of their set, the last three minutes of it would have served as complete redemption – the crowd eating up every last note.
Spirits were high by the time Temples took to the stage, many in the crowd back for second or third helpings of the band.
Unfortunately, any early momentum carried between The Districts and the opening two numbers of Temples’ 12-song set was dispersed due to technical difficulties – something that plagued them for the majority of their show.
With their organ out of commission, the band was very much a victim of a stop-and-go structure. They’d finish one song, retune their instruments, switch up their setlist to favour more guitar-based numbers, and motion at their roadies to investigate the problem. This unfortunately diluted momentum – lead vocalist James Edward Bagshaw expressing frustration, following up third song “Prisms” (the B-side to “Shelter Song”) with the pointed statement: “Can I get this organ working so we can play the rest of the songs, please?”
It took about five songs in for it to finally come together – a sizeable chunk of time given the comparatively short 12-song length of their set.
Outside of technical problems, they sounded exactly as you would hope Temples would sound. The band’s main selling point is its guitar riffs – catchy, sprawling melodies from Adam Smith that were complex and interesting to hear, unfolding in songs like “Move With the Season”.
Bassist Thomas Edward James Waimsley and Drummer Samuel Lloyd Toms got their chance in the spotlight, too, taking up the charge on the chugging “Keep in the Dark”. They’re also a band not afraid of their pedals, very much noticeable on songs like the Blue Oyster Cult-sounding “Colours to Life”.
Vocally, Bagshaw delivers his lyrics more with a lazy drawl than a show of force – making it all rather Lennon-esque. This is altogether fitting, given in sound and dress they truly are a throwback to eras long past. Both on album and live, their songs drip in the classicism of Abbey Road-era Beatles while their attire looked like it was lifted straight from a vintage store specializing in ‘70s attire.
So yes – there’s a very real sense of nostalgia to what Temples do and what they’ve managed to accomplish so far in their brief existence as a band. But the thing is: they pull it off so well and so convincingly. It was a sentiment they summarized exceptionally well with their two-song encore of “The Guesser” and “Mesmerise”. Just when you thought the latter was an exercise in exhaustion rather than a big climactic instrumental ending, the English four-piece took that extra step – pushing it to a limit you would have otherwise believed unreachable. That seems to be where they are as a band: playing the familiar but still finding new places to take it.
There’s clearly an audience appetite for this and its one Temples seem perfectly comfortable to play to. Now if only they’d share their time machine secrets with me so I could be in more than one place at any given time.