Published Oct 03, 2019The last time Stereolab played Toronto it was 2008, the year before the band called for a "hiatus/ sabbatical/ pause/ intermission/ breather," as they put it. The London-born avant-pop troupe were supporting their vastly underrated, final studio album, Chemical Chords at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, a venue they'd grown accustomed to in the city. At that point, Stereolab had apparently run their course, spending 19 years creating some of the most innovative pop of their time. During this decade-long rest, however, a great appreciation for band was shown that no doubt influenced a reunion.
Earlier this year, founders Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier announced remastered reissues of their catalogue, as well as a world tour to promote them. The sold out Toronto show was but one example of how hungry their fan base has become (the band's T-shirt stock was totally depleted, forcing the band to order an emergency run of a couple of designs).
Local hero Sandro Perri opened the show with a set from his project, Off World, an interesting choice, seeing as he released a new solo album just weeks ago. But the freeform trio (including Toronto musician/graphic novelist Lorenz Peter) warmed up the crowd with a 30-minute set of hypnotic, groove-based drones. Shame they didn't have some visuals to heighten the experience.
Stereolab entered the room to a hero's welcome. Along with Gane and Sadier were Andy Ramsay and Joe Watson from the previous lineup, along with new bassist Xavier Muñoz Guimera. They commenced with Dots and Loops opener "Brakhage," which allowed Ramsay to show off his time-keeping chops. From there it was all a trip down memory lane, peppering the set with a wide selection from their discography.
Classic singles like "French Disko" and "Miss Modular" came as no surprise, however, it was the inclusion of deep album cuts, such as Margerine Eclipse's "Need To Be" and Sound-Dust's "Double Rocker" that made it obvious the band were carefully trying to represent their work.
While Sadier was the lone vocalist, Muñoz Guimera and Watson were surprisingly capable backing singers. Whether it was providing the duets for "Fluorescences" or carrying the vocal rhythm for fan favourite "Metronomic Underground," they hit their falsetto dead on.
But she did do all of the talking, introducing each song and interacting with the crowd. She introduced their anti-capitalist anthem, "Ping Pong" to the city, slyly adding, "You have a very nice financial centre in Toronto." And just as she tested her synth for the opening notes of "Percolator," fans screamed in delight. "It could be," she teased.
Gane, on the other hand, led the band into extended jam versions of a noisier "Metronomic Underground," bouncy Krautrocker "Lo Boob Oscillator," and the droning "Anamorphose," during which he broke a string and had to swap guitars.
Returning for the encore, they played B-side "Brigitte," along with another one from Mars Audiac Quintet, "The Stars Our Destination." Sadier then asked, "Do you remember 'Rainbo Conversation?'" to great applause. "Someone's having a heart attack, so it's for you!" she joked. They then closed with a truncated adaptation of Transient Random Noise Bursts' "Jenny Ondioline," a fitting way to say goodbye.
No one knows what is to come from these reunion shows they're playing into November, but Stereolab fans definitely seem hungry for some new music. Considering Gane and Sadier never stopped recording in their time apart, one can only hope this rekindled partnership will result in more aluminum tunes.