Canadian indie artists seem to have a penchant for ensembles. From Broken Social Scene to Arcade Fire to Arkells, so many acts from the True North pride themselves on a large roster of members and feeling like a family affair. There’s something enchanting and wholesome about bands that manage to get that right, who can take the stage and somehow feel like close friends to their audience.
One of the finest examples of this kind of rapport is Toronto’s Fast Romantics, whose concert at Warehouse on November 6 felt like a family gathering. Supported by local acts James Blonde and the Bae Beach Club, the show felt like an intimate experience and huge stadium show all at once. Fast Romantics’ ability to truly be at ease with its audience led to some incredible showmanship and, more importantly, their music sounds like it’s ready to be topping the charts.
As front man Matthew Angus explains, the band has been taking some time out recently to work on a new album to follow up 2017’s American Love: their set list comprised mainly of new songs, which they seemed hesitant about at first, but the response from crowd was overwhelmingly positive. The new material feels fresh, but it sits brilliantly alongside their older work (which, considering they’ve been releasing music since 2012, is a stellar level of consistency). The choice to play so much new material is perhaps indicative of why that new material works so well. A lot of bands will rush a new record just to capitalize on the momentum of the previous, but that’s definitely not what happened here. Angus writes with an incredible level of purpose, confidence and personal insight. His musings on love in the midst of social chaos feel like a mantra, a firmly held set of beliefs as opposed to a mindless, catchy chorus — though his ability to turn those beliefs into catchy choruses is incredible. Fast Romantics are a sing-along band, but they’re one that’s actually singing about something, which I haven’t experienced since early Arcade Fire records.
Six musicians make up the band, almost all of whom sing on top of playing an instrument. Between two keyboards and sometimes as many as three guitars, Fast Romantics do an incredible job of filling out their sound without becoming overcrowded. There’s no doubling up of parts here: everyone has a unique voice and a specific role that creates something much greater than the sum of its parts. Between the airy, ambient layers of synths, catchy rock guitar riffs and elegant vocal harmonies, the music is a force of nature unto itself. The sound of the Fast Romantics lies somewhere between the synth-pop dreams of The Killers or The Cars, the folksy storytelling of Ryan Adams and the rock and roll heartthrob delights of The Beatles. All of this is delivered brilliantly by a band that knows what they’re doing and works fantastically together; no one is driven by ego here, everyone is doing what’s best for the music.
That incredible music is bolstered by incredible performances from the group. Angus took full advantage of the inviting atmosphere of Warehouse to really focus on his relationship with the crowd. On more than one occasion he jumped down into the crowd, passing the mic around and getting people to sing along. It’s not an uncommon thing to see, but what was surprising was how quickly and easily people took to it. Angus had his arms wrapped around audience members as if it were a drunken singalong among friends. It really felt like he knew everyone in the crowd, and was seeing them again for the first time in forever.
A lot of bands talk big about their connection to their fans. They’ll dedicate encores to them, or talk at length about how much they appreciate them. But when you’re at the Scotiabank Arena and there’s a 20 foot gap between the artist and their biggest fans, it can feel a little disingenuous. The Fast Romantics didn’t need to talk about their adoration for their fans. You could feel it in every note, see it in every smile on the band members’ faces and hear it in the passionate performance that they gave. There’s something so genuine, pure and wholesome about this band that has to be seen to be believed. An ethos of love and happiness defines who they are and it’s all but impossible to avoid getting swept up in that when you see them perform.