Reviews > Shows
The New Deal, Mod Club, Toronto, ON, 12/17/09
The New Deal is no longer new, although you wouldn’t know it from stumbling into a show. The self-described “live-progressive-breakbeat-house” trio is currently in the early part of their second decade together and it has made a career of conjuring dance floor-ready compositions out of thin air. While recent years have seen a decline in the volume of performances, drummer Darren Shearer, keyboardist Jamie Shields, and bassist Dan Kurtz remain among the scene’s foremost purveyors of live electronic music.
At home in Toronto, where its jubilant journey began, the band settled into the Mod Club and turned a frigid winter night into a scorching dance party. The occasion marked the release of a new live album, coincidentally recorded in the very same room back in July (2009), and featured a dependable confluence of established hooks and pure improvisation. Fresh off the beach from two performances at the Caribbean Holidaze festival in Jamaica, and looking forward to a New Year’s set in New York City, the boys set out to prove there’s still no place like home.
Over the course of ten years and hundreds of gigs, some might expect the creative well to have run dry for an all-instrumental electronic group. The first set put any such inkling to rest, as The New Deal explored numerous sonic landscapes, often with a more down-tempo approach than they are known for. It became a true challenge for the listener to discern what aspects of the music were scripted, especially considering the polished perfection of Shields’ infectious riffs. Fan favorites “Technobeam” and “Gnome” stood out as particularly strong peaks, and many in the audience seemed surprised that there was more to come as a brief set break was announced.
As the second set took began, Shearer’s presence behind the drums connected everyone in the room. He frequently swiveled a microphone in front of his face to introduce a certain number, hype the crowd into a frenzy, or showcase his notable beat-boxing skills. Whether doing his best Rahzel impression, sticking to the acoustic basics, or fusing in elements of his e-drum pad, his playing was always tasteful and his focus driven. The instances in which he built the beats to an explosive crescendo of snare drum bliss typically led to the most exuberant moments, as he expertly controlled the flow of the set. Late in the show, Shearer latched onto a familiar Shields progression and coerced the audience into belting out a verse and chorus of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”
“Glide,” a selection from the band’s 2001 self-titled studio LP, was the scripted highlight of set two. More attention and adulation were given to the unrehearsed snippets between “songs,” as the gyrating horde danced into the wee hours. Promoter Jay Cleary summed up the experience best, offering that “It’s so fitting to have The New Deal release a show recorded in Toronto, by playing a show in Toronto. The band began years ago with a virtually unplanned gig at The Comfort Zone (just down the street from Mod Club), and helped form the roots of a community that expanded far beyond that humble beginning. They’re an incredible part of this city, and tonight proved that.”
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