There's always a bit of a hesitation that lies in the grey zone between listening to an album and checking out the artist live. Recording songs in the studio is a highly manufactured process where mistakes are erased until a polished product is achieved; playing in front of alive audience means the musician has to keep going, no matter what happens. Given how smooth the Julian Taylor Band's latest album, Tech Noir, sounded, would they manage to match it at their show on July 23 at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern?
The answer was a resounding yet. Taylor, dressed in a white shirt with black slacks, blazer and tied, took to the stage as a warmup to Orgone, but played as though everyone had come solely to see him and his bandmates. They were celebrating the release of Tech Noir, playing nine songs out of a possible 13. After the first song, "Do You Remember", a Motown-flavoured song, Taylor doffed his fedora at the crowd and thanked them for coming, but with a voice like his, the crowd should thank him for making it public.
The band breezed through their setlist fairly rapidly, with Taylor taking time between most songs to chat to the audience a bit about the journey he and his bandmates took in making Tech Noir. And when he wasn't talking, he was singing, with a voice that sounded pretty darn close to the album version. That his musicians were timely and in key helped as well, and they all helped cement Toronto's reputation as a musical city with great talent available every night of the week.
Taylor did take a few liberties with the music that night at the Horseshoe, but they all worked in his favour. In particular, during "Zero to Eleven", a bluesy number with high energy, Taylor sustained a note for an extra long time, keeping it and the vibrato strong throughout. While I'm not usually a fan of musicians who engage in vocal acrobatics, Taylor's worked well for two reasons: it wasn't a constant presence, and he used it to show off his vocal skill sparingly and in complement to the songs, not as a character unto itself.
At the end of his show, the crowd was clapping and chanting, "One more song! One more song!" They held it up for a good while, and it almost looked as though it'd be enough for the Julian Taylor Band to come out and regale us with another couple of tunes, but alas, it was not meant to be. That was the end of them for that night.
It's a shame, though, because it took Taylor all of about two seconds to settle into his groove and deliver a performance that really appealed to music fans. He's also got the stage presence and musical style to appeal to multiple generations without seeming like he's pandering, which makes his playing all the more enjoyable. There aren't any shows coming up yet, but for now, listening to his new album, Tech Noir, will have to suffice.