Concert Reviews

London Grammar, Until The Ribbon Breaks at Sound Academy

Photographs by Fernando Paiz. 

When Interpol mistakenly let it out that the Sound Academy was closing, a collective cheer erupted from Toronto gig-goers.  Alas, the venue is only being shuttered temporarily for renovations in order to fill the hole left by the closing of the Kool Haus/Guvernment complex.  I’ve never been a big fan of the Sound Academy, but I’ve noticed they’ve tried to address some of the shortcomings, most notably the sound.

Last night’s gig by British trio London Grammar reminded me why I disliked the place.  Two years following the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, If You Wait, the band made their third visit to town (the first date on a make-up North American tour) for the debut’s victory lap.  Originally scheduled for the much smaller Danforth Music Hall, the band had no problems filling the cavernous waterfront setting.

If You Wait is such a massive emotional album for me personally and probably was the most played album at my house in 2014.  Their brief set at last year’s Osheaga Festival in Montreal had me in tears so I had the Kleenex ready to go for a full headlining set.

Opening with “Hey Now” to a relatively rapturous reception, the trio of vocalist Hannah Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman and multi-instrumentalist Dominic Major played almost the entirety of the debut, plus a snippet of “Help Me Lose My Mind”, their collaboration with Disclosure.

The star of the show is Reid’s voice, a husky instrument that often soars into the sound of heartache.  I wasn’t the only one with Kleenex ready to go and its Reid’s vocals that are the reason for any composure breakdowns.  Her voice sounded good last night but the band’s music was at times muddled and for the most part buried too low in the mix.

This performance would have been better suited to Massey Hall.  The crowd also became an issue and this might be due to the sound or the fact that this was held at a giant “bar”.  The quieter moments threatened to be drowned out by crowd chatter.

Surprisingly, no new songs being aired.  Two years touring the same one album must become tiresome without the injection of new material.  Reid’s request for the crowd to sing (she’s been singing these songs for two plus years now) fell on deaf ears, and to be honest, I had little interest in hearing those around me belt out the set, including the highlights that closed the evening; “Strong”; “If You Wait” and “Metal & Dust”.

Opening the night was British band Until The Ribbon Breaks, unfamiliar to me going in but, made a big impression on me by the time they finished their 40 minute set.  Sounding like a cross between M83 and Jungle, the band’s lush soundscapes also benefitted from the most elaborate visuals afforded an opening act I’ve seen in years.  Even an on-screen cameo of Run the Jewels was a nice surprise on “Revolution Indifference” although the duo’s appearance seemed to be lost on this crowd.  Or maybe it was just the venue.

Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.