One of the greatest benefits of live band journalism/photography is the exposure you get to artists that are not yet in the mainstream. In most cases, these artists are opening acts who perform their hearts out attempting to make a lasting impression and ideally, warm up the audience for the acts that follow. Such was the case Saturday night at the El Mocambo in Toronto when the UK’s the Brakes (known as BrakesBrakesBrakes in North America due to a Philly based punk band’s claim on the truncated name) started the evening with an adrenaline boosting set of super-catchy pop songs. Fronted by former British Sea Power member Eamon Hamilton, the band formed in 2003 and has toured with the likes of Belle & Sebastian and the Killers, their experience evident both in ability and crow-pleasing interaction.
Next up was Glasgow’s We Were Promised Jetpacks, labelmates of the night’s headliner The Twilight Sad. The four-piece was immediately greeted by a wild group of cheering fans, whistling and clapping before they even had instruments in hand. They performed a tight set of shoe-gazey heart-felt melodies, all through which their fans openly sang along.
The room became electrified when headliners The Twilight Sad finally stepped on stage. After what I had just witnessed, I expected nothing short of an epic performance. Musically, the band sounded equally good live as when studio produced, covering songs from both Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters and the recently released Forget The Night Ahead, but their stage presence lacked the group unity the two previous bands exemplified. Band member interaction was virtually non-existent as each performer stood in expressionless stoicism throughout the entire show, with the exception of singer James Graham who, in his attempt to convey the angst and melancholy of the lyrics, sang on his knees and, at times, beat the drum set with his own stick. His whole performance felt too contrived, unconvincing and was more distracting than anything. Looking behind me to gauge how the rest of the room might be feeling, I wasn’t surprised to see the crowd had thinned considerably and those who were still there didn’t appear to be really into it either. By the end of the set, which concluded with a solid five minutes of feedback from the strings and Graham standing motionless staring off into space, I was ready to go home as well.