On Saturday night, to a sea of wobbly 20-somethings, electronic musician Sohn executed a seamless yet somewhat uninspired performance to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall.
On tour for his most recent release—Rennen—Sohn (pronounced “sawn”) blends synthetic & organic instrumentation into an R&B/pop combination reminiscent of contemporaries like Chet Faker & Pedestrian. Although his debut—Tremors—felt inventive & relevant in 2014, there is not much development to report on with this new release. Putting that aside, Sohn is a talented artist & showman, which are qualities strong enough to pack one of the larger venues in the city. Opening the evening was a fellow Brit, William Doyle. Doyle’s ambient, emotive performance was a great warm up for the main event. Infusing droning synths with melodic guitar, the artist created a dense atmosphere of sound that enveloped the cavernous room. He was a pleasant surprise to these virgin ears & likely the highlight of the evening.
Sohn took the stage positioned in front of a pianist, backup singer & percussionist with a minimal but dazzling light display. Playing nearly all the material from his two full releases, the artist was well received throughout the evening. His demeanor was calm & centered, save for a near-constant flick of the wrist—some sort of cool guy dance move—which allowed the music to speak for itself. But therein lies the rub: if your music is going to talk for you, it better have an astounding vocabulary.
Playing nearly one and a half hours of music (with very little differentiation among the lot) meant there were times when I thought he was repeating songs. His formula works, there’s no denying that, but to rehash the same sound & idea over again especially in live performance became quite boring. With all that talent, it would be great to hear some true experimentation & progression to his act.
Although this jaded reviewer (a full-time James Blake fanboy, I should note) may have turned his nose up at Sohn that evening, the audience held a different sentiment. They were there for Sohn so why should they expect something new? “The Wheel” & “Tempest” off of album #1, “Proof” off album #2 were electric in the audience. Finishing with “Conrad”, his latest & most pop-y, ended the night on a note of levity.
Sohn: give him a listen & tell me how wrong I am in the comment section below.