From the get go, Dear Criminals’ live show at the National started off the right foot. The band’s European connections paid dividends in terms of show structure. Opener Tomas Furey set the tone very well with a blend of glitchy downtempo and British dubstep. Vincent Legault also got a warm up, contributing synths and guitar work. His understated guitar licks and flourishes really managed to accentuate Furey’s powerful, steepened voice in the tradition of R&B. With bass lines felt more than they were heard, Furey encapsulated a delectable combination of James Blake and John Hopkins.
By the time Dear Criminals finished their first song Crave from the eponymous EP, I was floored. Synths teased by crescendoing without the bass forthcoming, but this is not that sort of sound. Even though Dear Criminals are reliant on electronics, they play music that makes you sway calmly and gently with your eyes closed. If anything’s electrified at all, it’s the hairs on the back of your neck when you hear Frannie Holder harmonise with Charles Lavoie like in Bad Black Days or their cover of Britney Spear’s Hit Me Baby One More Time. Pop guidelines be damned by the way! Even though their Woman EP is dedicated to covers of famous songs, like the rest of their repertoire, everything is slowed down to oblivion, bass waves crushing you while Legault frizzes things up with glitchy guitar effects.
Each member stood in front of a door-sized piece of aluminum foil, with spotlights reflecting off them and made to cross each other in the middle of the stage. The result was a triangular array of lights with the top vertice above Legault. It really accentuates how Dear Criminals works: Holder and Lavoie don’t harmonise like well-known duos Simon & Garfunkel or even The Milk Carton Kids. Because of physiological differences, tones may harmonise but not their timbres. As a result, there’s a lot of space in between them that needs filling. Arguably, without Legault quietly strutting his stuff in between them, Dear Criminals wouldn’t achieve the cohesion they displayed. Live, their chemistry is something to behold.
They came, they saw, they conquered, then they left quietly. After running through songs from all their EPs and even a new unreleased song for their upcoming one, the band left synth and guitar loops to fade while Lavoie climbed up the ladder towards the exit, Holder to the left, and Legault shortly after. When the lights were back on, the group was already at the merchandise table, happily saying hi to fans who can’t wait for them to come back again.