Photographs by Matt Forsythe.
Dan Auerbach’s day job is singer and guitarist with the massively successful Black Keys. The Keys’ career veered off its rising trajectory with their last album, Turn Blue. The album received the most tepid reviews of a very acclaimed career. Drummer Pat Carney also injured himself, derailing tour leg losing any momentum the album might have had.
The timing just seems ripe for Auerbach to take a step back, take a breath and try something new and he did with Yours, Dreamily, the debut album of his side project, The Arcs. Yours, Dreamily came out towards the end of the summer and seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Commercial radio appears to be treating it like the plague which is a shame as any number of tracks would fit in nicely on radio playlists where the Keys reign supreme.
Nonetheless, Auerbach brought his four friends and tour openers to Toronto last night for a rare chance to catch the man in a much more intimate setting. Taking the stage minutes after their scheduled set time, Auerbach and crew opened with “Stay In My Corner”. Massey Hall was about two thirds full, which was a shame as they missed the Keys frontman at his chilled finest, turning the dial up on his guitar with blistering effect on set highlight “I Want a Holler”.
The Arcs’ songs are more of a psychedelic slant and the low rent visuals were the perfect accompaniment. Rather than an orchestrated arena show, the night had the vibe of a very professional basement jam. The chemistry made it clear that the band were friends and they all looked relaxed and pretty stoked to play the fabled room. The frantic pace of the Keys was replaced by sprawling, blues-tinged psychedelic rock. A friend commented that one song made him “swoon”, notable for the fact he was the last person I thought I’d ever hear that word from.
But my friend was on to something, as Auerbach and his crew made those gathered do just that and made enough noise between songs you forgot the place wasn’t rammed. The band was solid throughout almost 90 minutes that closed with “Velvet Ditch”, the sole encore.
Also notable was opening act Mariachi Flor de Toloache, a New York collective who at times summoned the presence and sound of a full gospel choir, a riveting sound that at times was just mesmerizing. I found myself drifting off to heaven with their beautiful vocals.