The Opera House, March 28th, 2017
by Erin Crosbie
When did rock bands stop having charismatic stars fronting them? Of course, that’s a bit of a loaded question.
The Opera House is a stately, historic venue in Toronto’s east end, but its classically-influenced facades hide the fact that it is one Toronto’s best mid-sized venues for rock in the city. And what’s the band doing the rocking? California retro-rock outfit Foxygen.
Foxygen has been furiously recording and touring since its two founding members, Jonathan Rado and Sam France, met in high school in 2005. They recorded and released four experimental EPs between 2007 and 2011, eventually releasing a compilation of these EPs on an album titled Jurrassic Exxplosion Phillipic. From here, the boys signed with a label and released four studio albums: Take the Kids Off Broadway (2012), We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Love (2013), ...And Star Power (2014), and this year’s Hang.
Hang is a great album, and luckily for fans of the band, Foxygen played the album in its entirety. Hang features elaborate instrumentation, represented here by a pared down band: four horns, a rhythm section, and the deliriously good frontmanning of lead vocalist Sam France. Hang is the band’s love letter to LA’s classic music scene through the years, and care has been taken to translate the album’s clean, precise musicality to an excellent stage show.
After a spirited performance from New Zealand-based musician Gabriella Cohen, the band took the stage. As I mentioned before, Hang was played in its entirety, and they brought down the house with excellent performances of “Follow the Leader”, “Mrs. Adams”, and “Trauma”. They also performed other Foxygen hits: “How Can You Really”, “On Lankershim”, and the excellent “San Francisco”.
As alluded to earlier, Sam France is one of the strongest frontmen performing in rock music today. His cocky, assured swagger dominated the night, and helped to fill in some of the void left by the pared down instrumentation.
Foxygen is a superb band, both in their touring and their albums, and the Toronto performance showcased their strengths. I’ll certainly be in attendance the next time they perform.
Erin Crosbie is a Toronto based writer and Psiphon Sessions contributor.