The best way to describe a Kindness show would be a surprising amount of fun. Live, English funk artist Adam Bainbridge presents himself as an energetic showman – both strong-voiced and undeniably charming. It’s a divide from the otherwise comparatively muted offerings heard on record, and a welcome one.
Opening the night at Toronto’s Rivoli (a venue switch from the originally booked Wrongbar) was local duo Prince Innocence. Their bedroom electronics saw Josh McIntyre matching his synth work to the dreamy vocals of Tali Faustmann – videos of fire, water, splashing liquids, and falling shapes projected behind them as Faustmann gave the chatty crowd her best seductive eyes.
It was teasing and minimal, but it was also fairly hypnotic. The duo did well to bring a range of offerings to their short set. “Cold” wasn’t particularly lyrically complex, but it was upbeat enough to bop around to; “I Don’t Care” sounded like a song ripped from the pages of today’s disaffected youth; and a Suicide cover of “Cherie” was handled exceptionally well.
The crowd filled in much more by the time Kindness took to the stage. Bainbridge brought with him a five-piece backing band – all looking like they had just stepped off a shift at Urban Outfitters and all a welcome addition that livened things up.
Part Prince funk and part Talking Heads Stop Making Sense era, Bainbridge and company upped the energy right off the bat with opening number “Doigsong” and its follow-up, the social media requested “Cyan”.
As a front man, Bainbridge seems the type you’d want to become immediate friends with. He banters well and engages his audience, playing to the Toronto market by referencing Drake (multiple times); dedicating songs to people in attendance; giving a shout out to Owen Pallett and to the crowd for supporting “obscure British shows”; earnestly asking why Kendrick Lamar loves Toronto so much; and making a concerted effort to ensure everyone on stage was both acknowledged and having fun. With this much camaraderie, it’s no wonder he’s managed to pull in so many impressive collaborations already, working with the likes of Kelela and Robyn and directing videos for artists such as Grizzly Bear and William Onyeabor.
I’ve also never seen an artist on his phone so often as Bainbridge was. Between checking lyrics for the aforementioned “Cyan” (and, in doing so, explaining his Rap Genius annotations that he spent far too long on and made him look like crazy guy,) to leaving a live audience recording of “We love you Robyn!” for the Swedish pop star, I was starting to worry that his roaming charges were going to be insane. Hopefully he was on WiFi – but Bainbridge certainly made me feel less guilty about the notes I was taking on my phone.
A cover of The Replacement’s “Swingin’ Party” fit well with the set, both him and his band giving it a Blood Orange twist with the inclusion of some of his “Champagne Coast”. This made sense – his percussionist, Bainbridge explained, was also in Dev Hynes’ band.
“You know Toronto, you’ve listened to those Drake records,” he addressed the audience toward the end of his show. “There’s always a slow song that’s kind of awkward. We’re going to do that right now.” Kindness then launched into “It’ll Be OK”, off 2014 sophomore album Otherness. The song saw one of his two backing female vocalists (who both moved like they were in the Tom Tom Club, circa 1984) throw in a hastily planned but nice addition of the chorus to Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home”.
The band ended with an encore that had the masses dancing and left everyone there with the impression that there’s a much larger game plan for Kindness. The stages may be small right now, but as a bandleader this charming he’ll have no problem winning over bigger crowds. As soon as people experience the show in person, they’ll be sold – or at the very least moving their feet.