Photographs by Neil Van.
Nearly two years on the road behind their second album, Olympia, Toronto band Austra finally wrapped the tour up last night at the Opera House. Having seen them as they heralded the release of Olympia in March 2013 at the Danforth Music Hall, it was nice to contrast the effect all that touring has had on the band led by Katie Stelmanis.
Playing for over an hour, the four piece offered up a set that touched on both of their albums. The lighting was the perfect accompaniment to the sound that filled the venue. The band was mostly tight, but there were a couple of moments timing seemed to be off. The crowd, a little quiet and listless through the first half of the set, really came to life for an epic extended “Lose It”.
Naturally being on the road that long some new material is inevitably played and Austra offered up two never played before songs, the first of which might have been called “The Physical World” was non-descript but the sexy electro throb of the second new song made more of a connection.
Prior to Austra taking the stage the crowd was treated to an interesting presentation billed as a Chinese Opera troupe from Markham’s Soong Kam Wing Music & Arts Centre. The duo dressed in traditional Chinese garb was more play than opera but quite frankly the ten minutes they were on stage was a baffling interlude that seemed to suck the energy out of the room, especially following the energetic vibe left from Montreal’s Blue Hawaii. There was no context for the performance and for a measly ten minutes seemed to be hardly worth the travel, although money from tickets was donated to the centre.
I arrived during Blue Hawaii’s set and wish I caught them from the start. Also contented that they were finally taking a year off the road, the duo really drove the energy up with their songs that recalled the Chemical Brothers with Bjork/Karen O like vocals. This was the perfect start to welcoming the beginning of the weekend.