Photographs by Sarah Rix.
Another reason I don’t doubt my esteemed colleague Sarah Rix is she’s the reason I ventured out last night to the Opera House to catch EL VY. Seeing the name on its own, I initially passed until I heard of Miss Rix’s recommendation. Soon as I discovered who was in the band, I was on board to be among the sold out crowd that packed the house to the point that I gave and received many accidental lap dances.
A side project for The National’s Matt Berninger and Menomena’s Brent Knopf, EL VY are touring behind their debut album, the recently released Return to the Moon. I hadn’t heard any of their material before their set time but I knew something was up first with opener Soren Juul from Denmark and Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” that played minutes before the band hit the stage. Clearly this wouldn’t be a moody cinematic rock night.
Opener “Careless” travelled roads not dissimilar to The National, but the band would let a lighter, poppier vibe creep into their set that was just under an hour. Still they wouldn’t be afraid to dial up the rock to 11 at a couple of points. The four piece were impressively tight but also seemed to be relaxed and enjoying the crowd’s approval.
I’ve only seen The National once, on a bill with Modest Mouse and R.E.M. so I’m not super familiar with Berninger’s stage presence, but he attacked his mic like a tipsy madman seeming attempting to exorcise his demons. His banter was indecipherable unless you were in the first few rows but I did manage to make out his derision of Knopf for a chorus on a particular song.
The crowd hung on to every word and while the floor barely offered room to breathe, let alone dance, they clearly were in their element and lapping up the opportunity to catch Berninger in the relative intimate confines of the Opera House in Toronto.
“Return to the Moon” was clearly the crowd favourite amongst the entire album which got aired, until they dropped the bombshell that was their delightful cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy”. Being the only song I knew beforehand, it gave me the chance to gauge the band, and this cover was pure awesome. During the rousing chorus, even Berninger sounded like Roland Gift.
They could have ended it there but offered up a chill out finale, one final album track before sending a delighted crowd out in the street and myself again indebted to Sarah.
Thanks to Collective Concerts for media access.