Published May 14, 2015There was a lot of love for hometown heroes Braids in the air at the sold out Bar "Le Ritz" P.D.B. last night. Sure, they may come from Calgary, but their adopted home of Montreal has fully embraced them, and like to think of them as some of their own. And that feeling seemed to be mutual. Frontwoman and de facto spokesperson Raphaelle Standell-Preston started the set by chatting up the enthralled crowd, informing them it'd been a year since their last hometown performance, having been cooped up in a tiny Montreal apartment writing and producing their excellent new album, Deep In The Iris. "But now it's spring, and it should be celebrated," she quipped before launching into album opener "Letting Go."
There's a sweeping quality to Braids' music, and this translates particularly well on stage. Their three-person setup — including Standell-Preston on vocals and guitar, Taylor Smith on keys and bass, and Austin Tufts on drums — is tight and effective, with every sound, key and strum in perfect harmony. Standell-Preston's soaring vocals are even more poignant live than on album, grounding the evening's performance while maintaining everybody's rapt attention. Their show was a showcase for their new material, performing the album in its entirety, making for a short but supremely effective set.
They stopped to wish happy birthday to one of their friends in the crowd before Standell-Preston started explaining that they'd been out celebrating the night before, bowling. These tidbits and the openness they demonstrated only reasserted the band's deep roots in the Montreal scene, embodying the down to earth and warm vibe of its locals.
They took a few creative liberties for their live performance of "Taste" that enhanced its heartbreaking subject matter. Tufts work on the drums is to be commended, as it offers a strong link song to song, never showy but always essential.
There were moments that managed to bridge the electronic experimentation of Björk with the hushed and lush compositions of the xx, while still sounding completely unique. The crowd's enthusiasm slowly built, until it reached a fever pitch for feminist anthem "Miniskirt," with Standell-Preston throwing herself into the song powerfully, body and soul.
Quick glances between band members throughout the performance highlight their biggest strength: they're wholly attuned to each other, and as a sum are so much more than their disparate parts. They never overshadow one another, instead focusing on enhancing each other's work to provide the best performance possible. I walked in already a fan, but experiencing them live made my respect for them grow tenfold. There were no egos, no presumptions and stage theatrics — just pure love for their craft, their adopted hometown and their fans.