Photographs by Olivia Leung.
To see a man with a large beard and a sleeveless tank that bore arms clad in band tattoos (Black Flag and possibly Godspeed You! Black Emperor) open for a pop singer may have been a bit strange for many mainstream enthusiasts. However, fans warmed up to Linus Young very quickly when his approachable take on rock music sat well with them. People who had come to see Tove Lo had yelled that they were there for Linus Young as well, and he reacted with such astonishment. Young truly isn’t as frightening or as tough as he may have seemed to this crowd (of whom were unfamiliar with The Phoenix in the first place, never mind what goes on within it).
He and his band were friendly, and they had the chops necessary to turn them from new friends into worthy openers. The rhythm section was fairly tight, which fit the mood of a click-track evening to follow pretty nicely. The guitar effects were a bit more free but not enough to take advantage of the audience. The male and female vocal harmonies wrapped up the bigger picture, so all was kindly presented to us. As they stepped slightly outside of the audience’s expectations (reverb-heavy guitar solos, constant snare rolls, other musicians playing percussive instruments), the crowd was proven wrong by Linus Young again and again, and everyone was highly fond of this group that seemed so out of place on paper.
Then came the act everyone was expecting, and that’s the new Swedish songstress Tove Lo. When Live in Limbo covered her miniature set at the Drake Hotel, I predicted that she would be the kind of person that would go far. Here I sit with my legs crossed and my hands ready to pry open a bottle of champagne, for I am good. Tove Lo came out to a sold out show with her name plastered behind her and many fans begging for her to take paraphernalia (t shirts and albums to sign, a joint to smoke and more) the entire night. Yes, Tove Lo hasn’t quite made it yet because she is escalating so quickly that there isn’t any stopping for her anytime soon.
Her stardom has come at such a fast pace that you can tell she is still learning the ropes. She stood on top of a cabinet speaker to get close to the fans, and she quickly backed off once she started causing much feedback. When she ended her set (as well as her encore), she did so so quickly that we were all unsure as to whether or not she was finished. No matter, as she has shown yet again why she was picked up in the first place. If she is so active, charismatic and magnetic without truly knowing the ins and outs of being a rock star just yet, that simply means that she was born to perform, and these barely-existent areas of improvement mean next to nothing at this point in her exploding career.
Last time she performed, she didn’t even have a full length album out yet so her set was as short as a celebrity marriage. How did she do with her new album Queen of the Clouds now out and able to be promoted? Very well. However, the innocence of her Drake Hotel performance is now gone. With a narration talking about Tove Lo’s high experience of meeting a man she felt lust for, you could already tell that she decided to focus heavily on the sex and substance themes she’d briefly go into at her previous show. So far, she hasn’t used these themes as a sour gimmick, as her crowd was still highly invested in what she had to say. She’s still relatable at this point, and I hope she stays that way.
While Tove Lo never felt unsure or nervous, she still seemed blown away by her success this entire show, and it’s this kind of humility that is catapulting her forwards. It isn’t the catchy tunes or sex appeal alone. Many fans there had already met her previously, and it was as if they were meeting up with an old friend. She may have been reliant on her pop star image, but she wasn’t trusting her fame entirely. She’s just a nice person deep down, and that’s what makes her fun. A few months after her Drake Hotel performance, Tove Lo won over The Phoenix in seconds. We’ll just have to wait until next time, where she may be playing at The Danforth Music Hall, or even, eventually, the Air Canada centre.
Thanks to Embrace Presents for media access.