The New Deal, Opera House, Toronto, ON – 12/17
It was a suitable hometown sendoff for The New Deal, as the Toronto trio came full circle after over a decade of electrifying live performances. Hitting the stage with no musical plan in mind, as they have done since day one, keyboard master Jamie Shields got the band going with a dark, trance-y progression. Drummer and hype man Darren Shearer instantly began punishing his kit, Dan Kurtz coolly injected a smooth bass line, and the show was off and running.
After jamming out the opening riff and whipping the crowd into a frenzy, Shearer offered a sample of his ubiquitous beat-boxing skills. Over the ensuing groove, he then did his best Phife Dawg impression, spitting the second verse from A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Award Tour’. His lyrical sendup was on point, resulting in the feel of a DJ playing the rap sample over a dance track. This unexpected mashup was impressive, although it did lead to a brief improvisational lull that forced the band to regain its footing. As fantastic as their performances have historically been, The New Deal’s penchant for writing on the spot has always been risky.
Once back on the same page, they came up with a mesmerizing sequence that can only be described as Japanese carnival music. Sounding like the inside of a Plinko machine and featuring an onslaught of e-drums, this furious creation segued into ‘Deep Sun’ to close the first set. The inordinate number of sweaty dudes with their hands aimed permanently skyward looked to one another for required approval, and Shearer promised that a lot more action was still in store.
Early on in set two, Kurtz’s wife and Dragonette co-collaborator Martina Sorbara emerged for a quick run through ‘Hello’, the electro-pop hit by French producer Martin Solveig that she famously recorded vocals for in 2010. An explosive break-and-drop-filled house jam followed, providing Shearer with ample opportunities to pump up the audience. This snippet founds its way into a theme reminiscent, in the best way possible, of 90’s dance music. The band members, visibly enjoying their stylistic journey, next took a stab at dubstep (or something like it). Shields played a frightening solo overtop Kurtz’s bass bombs as the entire venue rocked out. Picking up the pace, Shearer then led his accomplices into a monstrous version of ‘VL Tone’ that ended the second set with an exclamation point.
The generously drawn out encore saw Shearer comically introduce Shields as “dad, husband, confidante” before an in-your-face, 80’s-influenced synth solo brought the house down. During the night-closing ‘Gone Gone Gone’ jam, Kurtz took the lead with a gritty tone as Shearer pummeled all the fury he could muster out of his drums. Then just as quickly as it had begun, the event was history. Thanking their local crew and fans for years of support and feeling love in return, the band exited a Canadian stage together for possibly the last time. It’s bittersweet and somewhat odd to imagine a world in which The New Deal is a thing of the past, but they left us on a high note with plenty of great memories to cherish.