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February 8th, 2011
If the multiple sold-out dates on their first ever North American tour were any indication, Sweden’s The Radio Dept. should have come to this part of the world years ago.
Making their Toronto debut at Lee’s Palace on a frigid February night just two weeks after releasing the career-spanning, double-disc compilation, Passive Aggressive, the subdued trio took the stage almost without anyone noticing. Spending most of the night actually gazing at their shoes, Johan Duncanson, Martin Larsson and Daniel Tjäder weren’t exactly up for engaging with the audience. But anyone who’s read an interview or two should have known to expect a night of Swedish timidity. Though it was endearing to hear them defend their absence, saying if they had the money to tour, they would have done it years ago.
Kicking off the hour-long, 15-song set with “Freddie and the Trojan Horse,” the Radio Dept. let it be known early on that if you were there to see the band reproduce their wistful pop songs as carbon copies of their recordings, well, you’d leave happy. “The Worst Taste in Music,” “Ewan,” “Never Follow Suit,” they all came through the speakers as if the soundman had put on the actual records. For some, the lack of live improvisation may have left something to be desired, but man, did they ever make it sound good.
For a band that’s been around longer than a decade, the Radio Dept. also made the most out of their moment, compiling a set list that reflected their entire discography: from debut album Lesser Matters to last fall’s one-off single, “The New Improved Hypocrisy.” Toronto has long been one of the band’s biggest supporters, and the audience reactions to virtually every song, be it obscure B-side or obvious single, were always affectionate.
But it was last year’s breakthrough album, Clinging to a Scheme, that won out in the set. Towards the end, the band delivered four straight tunes from the album, including their Thurston Moore-sampling mini-hit, “Heaven’s On Fire,” all sounding note-perfect.
The Radio Dept. may not have left the most lasting impression on stage. But for virtually everyone in attendance, this night was more about witnessing the band in person than anything. Because few actually thought this day would come, so why not cherish it for what it was: a rare opportunity to see one of the great cult bands of recent times do their thing.
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