GIG REVIEW: TesseracT, The Contortionist, Erra & Skyharbor Live At Toronto, CA
Ah, The Phoenix Concert Theatre: the iconic Toronto venue is gradually becoming one of my most visited in the city. While the quality mix of sound is usually the first thing I think of when it comes to The Phoenix, on the night of November 6th, something was off, particularly during Skyharbor’s opening set. While they performed well, you could see it in their faces as they trudged off stage that they were not happy with their first appearance in Toronto. Their backing tracks were out of sync, and the vocals were mixed a little too low. However, it was really nice to see their previous singer (and TesseracT frontman) Dan Tompkins come out during their set to take a few photographs. Following Skyharbor was Erra, from Alabama. I previously saw them live when opening for Scale The Summit last year, but they have replaced their vocalist since then. The vocals came through a bit better with Erra, possibly due to the new frontman’s beastly death growls.
Next up was The Contortionist, which I was excited for, as it was my first time seeing them. I had been told about Michael Lessard’s live vocals and how they differ from the studio recordings, but seeing and hearing it for myself was fascinating. He has great range, both with cleans and harsh vocals, the latter being most impressive as not many people expand their growls like that. The rest of the band was tight as well, despite the slight sound issues that the venue was still having. Starting their set with Language I and II was impactful and got the audience extremely excited. And in what seemed like no time at all, their set was over, which meant that it was time for TesseracT.
As the stage was set for the headliner, the lights kept quite dim, the whole crowd launched into chants demanding the appearance of the band. Finally, as the first notes of “Dystopia” reached everyone’s ears, the room was full of cheers and goosebumps. “Dystopia” lead smoothly into “Messenger”, and it seemed like every single member of the audience was passionately singing along, no matter what the next song was. They tried to spread out the setlist fairly evenly throughout their discography, covering everything from ‘Concealing Fate’ to ‘One’ to ‘Polaris’. An especially memorable moment was the incredible performance of “Nocturne”, which of course featured their former singer Ashe O’Hara on the album version, but sounded even better coming from Dan Tompkins. The audio malfunctions from earlier in the night didn’t seem to affect TesseracT at all, and the entire band was as solid as ever, the sea of people feeding off of their energy and groove. Tompkins was particularly interactive with the crowd, at one point even diving in and disappearing into the screaming pit, then magically walking out onto the stage as if there had been a portal amongst the fans.
“Acceptance” from ‘Concealing Fate’ closed the set, and considering the crowd’s enthusiasm, I was surprised that no one called for an encore. However short the show felt, it was fantastic, and I am definitely happy to have had such an experience.