GIG REVIEW: Haken, Leprous & Bent Knee Live at the Opera House, Toronto
Since the announcement of a Haken/Leprous co-headlining North American tour, myself and the rest of Toronto’s progressive community have been counting down the days until Halloween night at the Opera House. Over the last few years in particular, both bands have expanded not only their sound but fanbase as well, playing larger venues to more and more dedicated fans each time around.
Boston’s Bent Knee did a spectacular job of getting the crowd going, and it’s safe to say they made a lot of new fans that night. Unfortunately, I missed most of their set due to interviews with the other two bands, but what I did catch was enough to leave a good impression. Singer and keyboardist Courtney Swain has a powerful voice that translates very well live, backed by a talented crew of musicians who bring a healthy mixture of pop, prog, and funk, complete with violin.
Speaking of strings, the beginning of Leprous’ set consisted of local cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, who beautifully captured the crowd’s attention before the band emerged to perform “Bonneville”. The first three tracks from last year’s album, ‘Malina’, opened their set, punctuated only by “Echo”, which was pretty much the only song on the set list not off of ‘Malina’ or ‘The Congregation’. While older favourites were missed, much of their newer material lends itself well to the stage, with tracks like “Mirage” becoming heavier and full of energy. As per usual, Leprous delivered a clean and magical performance, but it would have been nice to see Baard Kolstad behind the kit through the lighting.
Similarly, Haken also focused on their most recent album, playing most of ‘Vector’. I was happy to hear “Falling Back To Earth”, however nothing released prior to ‘The Mountain’ made an appearance. And surprisingly, “The Architect”, which features Leprous’ Einar Solberg on the album version, was something that every fan was waiting for, yet never came. Naturally, Ross Jennings’ now trademark glasses came out for “1985”, and Diego Tejeida’s keytar was decked out with skulls that were more than fitting for a Halloween show. To cap things off with a bang, Haken came out for an encore of “Crystallised”, which was definitely a highlight of the night. You know, other than watching a man in a banana costume get tossed around a mosh pit that had already seemed rather out of place to begin with.
While all three bands put on one hell of a show, seeing both Haken and Leprous respectively in 2016 were far more memorable – which, frankly, has a lot to do with songs performed, and in the case of Leprous, a more intimate setting. But fond memories aside, the Opera House provided a great atmosphere for a night of aggressively technical groove and talent. All three bands are not to be missed.