Reviews > Shows
Dr. Dog in Toronto
Canine by title, workhorse by nature. Dr. Dog – the finest Philadelphia export since ?uestlove and co – may have taken longer than usual to venture North of the border in support of a new record, but it was well worth the wait. With Be The Void material still at the forefront and the Wild Race EP fresh in the rear view, the keystone sextet brought consistency and endless passion to the Opera House.
Muddy acoustics marred the first couple of songs, but by the end of “Hang On” – a band favorite from 2008’s Fate – the sound was crisp and bassist Toby Leaman was already in how-will-he-possibly-sing-like-this-all-night mode. His scratchy declaration of love appeared certain to blow out his vocal chords, a confounding dilemma that persisted throughout the set, somehow with no dip in sonic quality. Less labored but equally engaging, co-frontman Scott McMicken alternated lead duties with Leaman. While manning most of the rhythms and coercing the occasional guitar solo, McMicken lent the tunes much of their vintage lean, his forthright delivery bringing whimsy to his motley subject matter.
“That Old Black Hole” and “Vampire” distinguished the 2012 output as worthy enough of standing alongside the classics, but “Heavy Light” left no doubt as to the mighty nature of the Be The Void stock. Doing their best jamband impression, the road warriors poured a sea of psychedelic color from the stage. Frank McElroy’s overwhelming swirl of guitar and Zach Miller’s spellbinding piano accounted for much of the bedlam, as the emphatic highlight resolved with a brief interlude that dropped into The Beach.
Leaman’s voice was mixed a touch low on the otherwise lively “These Days,” which was followed by a kaleidoscopic take on Architecture In Helsinki’s “Heart It Races”. “The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer” owned the home stretch with ripened force before “Lonesome” closed the set in rustic sing-along fashion. Eric Slick opened the encore with an unbridled, albeit compact, drum solo as the band reached back a few albums for “Worst Trip” (from 2007’s We All Belong ) and “Oh No” (from 2005’s Easy Beat ). Outdoing those deeper cuts as time ticked down was “Jackie Wants A Black Eye” from 2010’s Shame, Shame – a somber and ultimately unifying glimpse of abuse and alliance.
The community that has grown around Dr. Dog came about with designed purpose, each visit to Toronto increasing in buzz and attendance. The adulation is well-deserved by a group that starts with marvelous songs and delivers stellar performances time and time again, maintaining a simple formula but never coming off as disingenuous. There is little doubt that, as the band continues to grind out exemplary albums and expansive tours, their caché will only continue to grow.
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