Updated April 29, 2019
Once in a while you come across a band that has something really special: a passion that goes beyond the music itself and that shapes the entire live performance. I find this in the band called July Talk. To be honest, I had not heard of them until my 17-year-old daughter asked me to go and watch them at the CBC Music Festival, held on May 26, 2018 at Echo Beach in Toronto. Lots has been written about them elsewhere including their successful and demanding tour schedule and their taking of LA by storm, but what captivated me was the passion of the delivery. Lead singers Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis carry a sensuality in their choreography and singing that is both gentle and furious. Combined with their vastly different but oddly complementary vocal styles, it speaks to the entire bizarre energy of human attraction, lust and love – something that hopefully everyone, at some point gets to feel in their own lives.
The dusk performance was the headliner of the festival. Leah got quickly to the point of acknowledging that the land upon which the festival (and the host city of Toronto) sits is land belonging to the people of the Indigenous First Nations including Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa. This is something that I am personally very happy to see and hear.
The show itself was a tight and road-hardened delivery of all their best tunes. It didn’t matter that I had not heard any of them before. Although many people go to a concert to hear their favourite songs played by their musical heroes, the quality and texture of the material made them all immediately compelling and enjoyable even upon first hearing.
Leah and Peter dominate the stage with their seductive delivery, singing as much to each other as they do to the capacity crowd. Of course the rest of the band members, including some very lithe back-up singers, deliver powerhouse support with flawless playing and visual appeal to make the entire stage something wondrous to look at without the need for overpowering light shows and pyrotechnics. The colour palette is black and white, which I have since learned, is also part of their film/video production brand and style.
The moon added to the magic of the evening. It was not-quite full but was very prominent in the early summer sky, and Leah took time to point it out.
Sometimes, with a band you’ve never heard before, things can get a little tedious. Listening to one unfamiliar tune after another, with nothing recognizable such as a cover tune from a more famous act thrown in as a foothold, can become distracting. Not so with July Talk. They held my interest throughout. They not only performed happily to their hometown audience, they got involved with them, with Leah climbing down across the security barriers to sit on the sand of Echo Beach surrounded by fans. That takes guts. And heart.
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Update. This year my daughter once again invited me to go with her to see July Talk on their joint tour with Metric and Murray Lightburn at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, on April 26.
Again, the atmosphere was intimate while remaining musically tight. They even brought the moon with them this time, in the form of an inflatable replica that Leah guided around the stage on a long leash.
From our perspective across the cavernous space, it was still possible to take in Leah’s exquisite and masterful dancing, and Peter’s dramatic lurching over the keyboards. Also perceptible from our vantage point was the love and the passion that July Talk fans have for their band, which seems to go beyond traditional rock star worship and instead reflects the shared concerns and love for the issues that the band stand so solidly behind, including acknowledging the First Nations whose land the City of Toronto is built on, and the rights of all people to coexist in an accepting and supportive culture.
To me, as an old(er) guy, July Talk reminds me of David Bowie, Roxy Music, and Talking Heads, combining artistry and sensuality with sophisticated musical writing that stands apart from the contemporary norm.
Looking forward to the next show.