Rachel Zeffira at the Drake Hotel Underground, Thursday, May 2. Rating: NNN
At Rachel Zeffira's first ever Toronto show, she played songs mostly from her debut solo album, The Deserters, including Silver City Days, her slowly-becoming-famous My Bloody Valentine cover, To Here Knows When, and the record's title track.
A classically trained musician and former opera singer, she recreated each of those - their rich arrangements and haunting soprano vocals - almost exactly. That could have been boring - I want more from a live show than I can get from a CD, after all. But live, Rachel conveyed feeling that isn't apparent on the ethereal, sometimes-icy disc. Front Door, for example - an ode to a long-distance love - is just pretty on the album, but came to emotional life onstage with the help of her backing vocalists.
She had just met those singers that day, but it didn't show. Their harmonies on a short cover of the Beatles' Because were flawless.
The Drake Hotel Undergound provided a super-mellow, intimate setting, which was a nice place to have the baroque pop wash over you, but the stage was awkwardly rammed with so many instruments you could barely see the musicianship properly. The singers were huddled in an odd corner, and Rachel had to shuffle between keyboard, organ and vibraphone. She managed, but it would have been nice if she was less cramped while creating a sound so big.