Photos by Neil Van.

Get yourself a band that can send you to the moon. Failing that, get yourself a band that can bring the moon to you. July Talk, in a stellar Massey Hall show, did just that. Their debut performance at the beloved Toronto venue managed to be both special and spatial. Flanked by a planetary backdrop and massive floating moon balloon, they brought an otherworldly spectacle to an adoring crowd.

Did that come off as too cute? Blame the band, whose charismatic leads bring a sultry energy to their live sets. The vocal interplay between Peter Dreimanis’ gravelly bourbon and Leah Fay’s smoky punch forms their iconic sound, which shines on the stage. The two bring together Nick Cave swagger and bratty spunk, complemented by a talented band. There’s a stylish anachronism to the nine piece ensemble, which features Motown style backup singers, two full drum kits, dirty rock guitar and an abundance of keys. In short, it’s one hell of a show.

There was a dynamic energy throughout. The stage was a constant blur of movement and crowd engagement. Peter and Leah would sink down and sing directly to the front row or grasp their hands tightly. Whether it was a rollicking rock number or a somber ballad, the band’s intensity never wavered. They gave themselves to the sound and the audience lapped it up.

So often performances will be defined by one memorable moment. July Talk kept those moments coming. There was Dreimanis thanking his 92 year old grandmother for coming to see him perform (prompting crowd chants of “grandma, grandma, grandma”), or Fay walking through the crowd to serenade a concertgoer face to face. A surprise guest performance by Toronto singer-songwriter Jason Collett (of Broken Social Scene fame), or the tender Leonard Cohen cover “If It Be Your Will” with (five month pregnant) guest vocalist Elisapie. 

As Leah brought down the floating moon in their final song, “The Garden”, there was a sense that we’d arrived. Equal parts ascension and send off, it was a charming way to say farewell to a good night.