Live Review: Toro y Moi @ Headliners Music Hall, Louisville KY (5/9)


Toro y Moi has moved through a few phases in his career. He started out as a leader in the late ’00’s chill-wave movement, and his music later became more focused with 2013’s synth-funk drenched Anything in Return. With his latest album, What For?, Chaz Bundick took his largest step outside the box yet with a record drawing alternative rock influence from at least four different decades. It was one of his most interesting albums to date for me, and going into my first concert experience with the artist, I was curious how the sound would translate live. My biggest fear: people would stand idly by only nodding their heads.

If you haven’t seen Toro y Moi, I have news for you: it’s anything but that.

I have to say, this show was everything I hoped it would be. It was truly the best case scenario. People erupted as soon as the band arrived on stage, and Bundick & Co. exploded right back. They began with the “What You Want” from their latest album, a rock anthem with an undeniable sing-a-long melody that loosened everyone up right away. From there, a quick “Hi” and “That was fun.” from Bundick. No time for talking, they were ready to toss some dynamite at our feet with Anything in Return’s “High Living”, an old favorite that I wasn’t expecting.

This song placed Bundick on synths and the crowd immediately fell into a synchronized groove once the squealing buzz flew through the room. Everyone was dancing, they all knew the words. Huge props to this crowd, because everyone there was really involved. Bundick made several points to thanks them himself.

From there, the group moved into their 70’s-style strut anthem, “Buffalo”. A favorite of mine, the song was much better than it’s album version. The band hit all the highs just right, stopping on a dime with the quick strumming chorus. More than anything, this song showed me that the group was going to control the pace of the show really well, and surprisingly transition between the electronic and rock songs with such ease I shouldn’t even mention it. It’s as if no question was necessary in that department.

The show continued with virtually no low points. Toro y Moi’s pace continued pumping out the dance bug in the room throughout. Perhaps the only “setback” was an amp blowing out on a guitarist. These situations are always interesting to see; I like to think a group’s ability to stop that kind of setback from derailing the show separates the boys from the men. And they responded perfectly! Here, Bundick decided to perform “Run Baby Run” on his own with his electric guitar picking. The song feels large on the album, but stripping it down brought out the delicate lyricism and held the crowd over perfectly until a new amp arrived. In mid song, the second guitarist joined in and the full band followed along. Bundick himself asked afterwards, “That was cool, right?” “I looked over myself, wasn’t expecting that.”

The show eventually had to come to a close but it finished with the same ferocious jam funk it started. Perhaps the danciest moments of the night came with the final songs: “Rose Quartz” into “Say That”. The crowd unified in announcing “I feel the heat!” throughout “Rose Quartz” and “Say That” inspired people to actually jump around in all directions from enthusiasm. Undoubtedly, the band returned from their closer with an inspired “So Many Details” encore, and it didn’t disappoint.

In fact, nothing from this show disappointed. From beginning to end, all of my expectations were pleasantly shattered. I could have been happy with an extra 20-30 minutes to Toro y Moi’s hour and a half long set, but perhaps they were being smart in keeping it tight. The show had no dull moments, no sleepers. Toro y Moi had an advanced control of the pace and held its grip on the crowd throughout, so I’m happy to have been satisfied with the perfect 90 or so minutes of dance funk.

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