(By: Emma Buchanan)
Foster the People are masters of disguise. A passive listen to their 2011 hit “Pumped Up Kicks” sounds like a summery, indie earworm. Hearing the song a second time though, reveals a dark picture of a troubled young man and his murderous ambitions – hidden in a catchy chorus.
On Thursday night, you would have never guessed their chart-climbing success during their ‘Sacred Hearts Club’ show at Toronto’s REBEL nightclub. The now four-piece band – former bassist Cubbie Fink left in 2015 – put on an energetic and cinematic concert with poignant messages hidden in plain sight. The intimate atmosphere of the show made for a connection between band and audience that felt anything but mainstream.
Mississauga-based duo K.I.D.opened the show with a set full of “vapourwave” visuals and music with themes of sex and depression. Lead vocalist Kara Lane had “cool girl” down to a tee, stomping and swaying around the stage while singing the duo’s indie-rock music with a powerful and husky voice. Bobby Lo, the other half of K.I.D, played the keyboard while his eyes rolled back in what can only be described as a psychedelic performance.
“I wrote this song last year when I was too depressed to do anything but jerk off and eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” Lo bluntly told the audience before performing the duo’s song “Errors.”
Before Foster the People took the stage, the lights dimmed and the Tragically Hip’s “Ahead by a Century” played for its duration. It was a tribute to lead singer Gord Downie’s death. The crowd sang along to every word.
Afterwards, Foster the People returned to a Toronto stage for the first time in three years and were greeted by deafening applause. Their three albums since 2011 have earned them a devoted fan base. The band doesn’t shy away from their past, either – half their set list was songs from their previous albums, ‘Torches’ (2011) and ‘Supermodel’ (2014).
Thursday night’s set list included “Pumped Up Kicks,” a song that is meant to bring awareness to gun violence in the United States, as frontman Mark Foster has explained in countless interviews.
Other highlights from the set list include their new synth-filled single “Sit Next to Me,” and a rhythmic rendition of their second album’s “Are You What You Want to Be?”. The driving pulse in “Are What You Want to Be?” was expertly guided by the band’s drummer and only remaining founding member, Mark Pontius. They also performed a reimagined version of “Houdini” that broke down into an impassioned instrumental interlude while maintaining the song’s distinct piano riff and bittersweet message: “Sometimes I want to disappear.”
Foster the People breathed new life into their old material, but songs from their first album still received the most enthusiastic reactions.
Maybe it was the charisma of the band’s front man that kept the crowd unified. Mark Foster pointed and blew kisses into the crowd the whole night, charming the audience with his energetic dance moves and dynamic voice.
(Video credit: Emma Buchanan/RUtv News)
Foster pounded his chest at times when singing his lyrics, a testament to the importance of the message behind the music. The first album talked about gun control and their second album was about capitalism. Now, with slicked back and hair and new sound, Foster has a new message, as he assured concert-goers Thursday night: “Love is bigger than politics.”
“Loyal like Sid and Nancy,” a powerful critique of modern America with somehow hopeful undertones, was the band’s last song of the night. Before the song started, Mark Foster gave his canned speech for the tour.
Though it was expected, he had a pointed message. As he stood surrounded by multi-coloured spotlights shining around him like a vignette, he seemed to be preaching to the choir.
“We have to fight dark with light. We can’t fight hate with hate, we have to fight it with love.”