You think that after seven albums, under three different names including one that won the Polaris Prize for best Canadian album, that you would have seen the legendary indie electronic artist Caribou aka Dan Snaith before. Shockingly, I have not. What is even crazier is the fact that he plays in Toronto all the time. He was also at a festival I was at earlier this year and I still didn’t have time to see him! Maybe it is just one of those things where since you know you have all the time in the world to see something you just keep putting it off, like one of those exhibits at the ROM where they stay for a year, sometimes never even going. I am happy to report I can finally cross seeing Caribou live off my bucket list. The packed Danforth Music Hall eagerly waited and Snaith and his band members came out to do their sound checks and retreat back into the green room. Unfortunately the scheduled start time was delayed by about 15 minutes with no explanation as to why the band came on late. At the end of every song played on the PA system, the crowd started to chant “Caribou, Caribou” to no avail. When the four-piece finally came on stage the room erupted with cheers.
The band, clad in all white formed almost a circle and while all bands need to feed off each other to play, the four of them seemed to create a life force of music, each of them pushing the boundaries of the rest of them. Snaith, while being a literal genius (he has a doctorate in mathematics from Imperial College London) also is a musical genius. He plays the keyboard/synths while switching up and drumming on most of the songs as well on top of singing lead vocals. Watching him set loops and play intricate patterns to layer against one another is quite hypnotizing. At the back of the stage a large banner covering the entire back wall was hung showing the album artwork for Caribou’s latest album Our Love. An impressive array of lights was synchronized with the music, as the beat picked up steam the lights did a crescendo of near epileptic levels of intensity blinking and flashing different colours and patterns.
One of my favourite tracks from the Polaris Prize frontrunner is Mars and seeing Snaith gracefully, yet very quickly slam out the flute-like sounding chords on the keyboard with one hand showcased his immense talent. Drummer Brad Weber, during an extended break down sounded like a man in the middle of a jungle pounding away like a tribal warrior. Weber would raise one arm triumphantly right before starting an intense drumbeat, which the crowd would cheer in anticipation. The rising synths was reminiscent of the final track off of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, Contact, where it sounds like the listener is being beamed up to outer space. That’s where Snaith’s music was taking us, out of the venue, into the stratosphere to dance away our petty issues on Earth.
In between songs Snaith would give only a brief thank you and nod his head at the crowd. He seemed to give almost bashful smiles, knowing how fortunate he is to have a sold out crowd at a very large venue playing music that is both deeply personal but still has the ability to make the crowd dance. Seeing the crowd start an unprompted clap along during Can’t Do Without You was special, as the unforced organic nature of the audience participation created an aura that can’t be manufactured.
For the encore the band came out and Snaith said they had time for just one more song, Sun, from his previous album Swim. He clearly showed his appreciation by coming out and saying “Thank you so, so much. This is crazy!” While the band was in the zone in perfect harmony, Snaith walked away from his station to watch the other three members play. Even the man himself can’t help but dance to the music. He watched the three other guys play for a few minutes, smiling, knowing we were witness to yet another great show by a man who seems to get better with each passing album.
Thanks to Collective Concerts for media access.