Wearing white on Victoria Day is totally allowed, it turns out – and the members of Metronomy have certainly spruced up their outfit game since they last played Toronto in 2012. Back then, they were still touring their excellent third album, The English Riviera, and put on an extremely fun show with flashing buttons on their chests that offered a low-budget synchronized light show.
Their more recent appearance in the city – this time at the Phoenix Concert Theatre – saw Joseph Mount and company decked out in white suits with red detail. If their outfits were a precursory indication of the band’s growth over the last few years, the night’s set proved the English group is certainly maturing, moving away from the funk from their earlier recordings and into more mellow territory with the night focusing on 2014’s Love Letters.
Opening the night was Cloud Control, a Sydney band offering boy-girl harmonies and four-part rounds. Musically, they sounded a bit like the tropical vibes of St. Lucia meeting the vocal stylings of fun., with hints of Foster The People’s pop sensibilities and the rolling drums that rocketed Franz Ferdinand to success. Bass propelled many of their melodies and Cloud Control’s energetic, half-hour show easily won over the Toronto crowd and showed an audience up for a dance party.
Metronomy were well suited in the challenge of keeping things upbeat, though opener “Month of Sundays” proved Love Letters is still easing into much of the general public’s repertoires. Thankfully the band quickly switched into more familiar offerings, packing in a one-two of English Riviera material with “The Look” and “She Wants.” It was a similar back-to-back helping of “Holiday” and “Radio Ladio” – from 2008’s Nights Out – that played to the crowd’s desire for disco, bodies moving and shaking as chant along choruses were shouted back at the band.
In the time since their last appearance, the band’s added a new touring member and he’s helped to translate their electronic, on-record sounds into the live setting. But music aside, the greatest thing about Metronomy is how much fun they are to watch.
Bassist Olugbenga Adelekan is not the type to shy away from the spotlight – frequently approaching the front of the stage to bop along to the music and encourage the crowd. Further back, but no less involved, was drummer Anna Prior, who appeared both flawless (seriously, she wasn’t even breaking a sweat) and like she was having the time of her life, a smile plastered on her face for much of the set – including on her turn at the microphone for “Everything Goes My Way.” Oscar Cash, squirrelled away in a far corner of the stage behind a podium where he was handling keys and synths, was also entertaining to watch as he bobbed and weaved his way through the set.
Cash also made appearances front and centre, at one point emerging from behind his desk to shake a tambourine for Love Letters’ title track – a number that sounded very doo-wop thanks to the band’s harmonies. He also took lead vocals, dropping in an unexpected but surprisingly well played cover of Box Codax’s “Naked Smile.” I say surprising because the song and band it originated from – Franz Ferdinand guitarist Nick McCarthy’s experimental side project – is, admittedly, an acquired taste… and I say that as a massive Franz fan.
It also led impressively well into “The Bay,” the breakout single – and perhaps one of the best songs to emerge out of the UK in the past couple of years – from The English Riviera. The bass lead number shows Metronomy is more than capable of writing a pop hit. It just seems that on Love Letters, they’re less concerned with keeping things upbeat and more concerned with fleshing out their catalogue with slower, sleepier numbers.
This isn’t a bad thing, but it did make for some slower transitional periods in their setlist, forgoing obvious choices like “A Thing For Me” in favour of Love Letters material such as the video game soundtrack-sounding “Call Me” and the rumbling lead-off single “I’m Aquarius.” “The Upsetter” also proved slower to start, but had a fairly good finish with its four-part harmonies coming together over a plucked wire guitar.
They ended their three-song encore with the punk-y “You Could Easily Have Me,” the sole offering from 2006 debut Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe), a clear indicator of just how far the band has come over the years. It wasn’t a perfect set, but it was certainly a fun one – and if there’s a band that’s managed to keep things interesting and ever-evolving over the years, that would be Metronomy. Love Letters will be a slow grower, but come the next time they tour Toronto it’ll probably make a lot more sense in the context of where they are as a band and where, exactly, it will fit within the rest of their quirky, electronic offerings.