Photographs by Dawn Hamilton.
The Wilderness Politics Tour rolled into Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on Sunday evening bringing along a four-part evening of pop rock artists from quite literally all over the world. The tour, presented by Journeys (yes, the shoe company), had a throwback air of pop punk tours of the past (also likely presented by Journeys) with branded fabric bracelets handed to attendees at the door by volunteers, and a tour backdrop letting everyone know exactly where they were for the night. The comparisons end here though as the dynamic Brooklyn native LOLO shattered preconceived notions of the evening with her soulful rock stylings, and Sydney, Australia’s The Griswold’s indie pop and impressive harmonies charmed the crowd. Even their more heavy interpretation of Vance Joy’s “Riptide” was well received. There was no shtick or flash here, just two hard working groups doing their best to wow a cavernous music hall far from home.
Co-headlining the tour are Denmark’s New Politics who’s stage entrance was aggressive and commanding with an impressive smoky light show. Their music naturally leans towards anthemic and their live performance certainly supports that. A showman is the only way to describe lead singer David Boyd. From high kicks to back flips, and break dancing to bass drum climbing, Boyd’s energy was easily unmatched by any other performer throughout the evening. Which begs the question, why haven’t New Politics been heralded for their live shows yet? With tracks begging to be heard live, a lead singer doing handstands, and a guitar-player-turned-piano-ballad-singer part of the way through the set, are New Politics a best kept secret? Perhaps the answer lies in the wide range of their songs flip flopping from indie dance tracks to punk anthems. Or perhaps their latest release Vikings is set to propel them over the edge. Regardless, the crowd ate up standout single tracks including “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Girl Crush” which included co-headliner Andrew McMahon joining the band on stage.
With a quiet confidence Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness’ stage set-up and entrance was a stark contrast to New Politics’ manic energy. As always, McMahon’s baby grand piano took centre stage though this time it, along with the backline, was covered in a lush fake grass and topped with a whimsical fish bowl. Large white balloons surrounded the stage while a single balloon hovered as a floating projection screen while McMahon opened the set with a solo and sweet rendition of “Rainy Girl”. For the next hour the crowd was treated to a set list spanning over ten years in time and including every facet of McMahon’s long and winding musical career. Technically touring and recording under the name Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness now, every other track was off of the latest self-title release. In between included old standbys such as “Dark Blue” and “Swim” from the Jack’s Mannequin era and “I Woke Up In a Car” and “Punk Rock Princess” from the Something Corporate days. Though arranged slightly differently to compliment The Wilderness’ vibe, the tried and true tracks still stand on their own after all this time.
The magical haze was broken part way through the set due to some unfortunate crowd antics and heckling. While McMahon did his best to stand his ground the atmosphere changed drastically and the remainder of the set was performed with barely a glance to the crowd until the final songs. As per usual, the actions of a few ruined the experience for many. The evening ended with the crowd draped beneath a colourful parachute, suspending reality ever so slightly for a few more moments in the reverie of the Wilderness before heading out to the reality of the city streets.