RHYE at Massey Hall, Saturday, June 21. Rating: NNNN
Rhye's outstanding, intimate April 2013 show at the Great Hall set the bar very high for the alt-R&B duo, putting a lot of expectations on their NXNE follow-up.
Truthfully, a carbon copy of that performance - transported to the hallowed Massey venue - would have been satisfying. But Toronto-bred frontman Mike Milosh showed a real commitment to fans, a deft hand at composition and an obvious love for Rhye's tiny catalogue - they have just one album, 2013's Woman - by reproducing it in recognizable but different arrangements. Sure, they were still the same brooding slow-jams, but accompanied by an exceptional five-piece band, Milosh unfurled renditions of songs like Open, Shed Some Blood and 3 Days with impressive patience. He savoured every bar, and so in turn did the audience. Overall, there was less emphasis on brass and strings than the Great Hall show, less of the overt R&B sexy-jam vibe of the record, and more funk, more jazz, more overall experimenting.
Predictably, Milosh's silky contralto was transcendental at Massey, and occasionally the singer played percussionist, too, pattering away on the hi-hat set up by his mic stand, or getting behind the set with his drummer.
Milosh also demonstrated restraint and poise when an intoxicated balcony member threatened to kill the blissed-out vibe with lude remarks and a general racket. Instead of freaking out or going on a rant about respect, Milosh didn't miss a beat, reminding them that his parents were in the audience.