Live Review: Middle Kids impress with their new EP as they tour North America with Local Natives

It it feels like Sydney trio Middle Kids haven’t stopped touring the globe over the last few years, you’re probably not wrong. It’s been one success after another for the group – and a lot of it has been happening quietly overseas. Currently, the troupe are on the road in North America supporting Local Natives, and touring as a four piece. I went along last night and caught their set at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre, which comes in about a third of the way through the tour.

The dates sit around the band’s brand new EP, New Songs For Old Problems, which came out last week through Domino Records. Hannah and the band opened with “Salt Eyes” and “Your Love”, with the group sounding fuller than I’ve ever heard before. They just keep getting better with every show. “On My Knees” came out loud and impressed, as did “Bought It”, which had a massive jam and totally won over the crowd. As did drummer Harry Day’s Raptors t-shirt (for those not following, they’re the Toronto NBA team who made the finals for the first time ever this week).  “Edge of Town” was a personal highlight, given its popularity in Australia, though it got the crowd jumping even if they didn’t know it. You can’t physically hear that song and not think it’s a hit. It’s impossible.

“Beliefs & Prayers” off their newly released EP was another stand out moment (it’s also a highlight of the brilliant record), and they ended with the catchy “Mistake”. Middle Kids effortlessly won over a crowd tonight where they were an unknown support for the vast majority. They’ve fast become one of our country’s best live acts, buoyed by the aforementioned never-ending touring, and tonight was proof things are only going to get bigger and better for the hard working outfit.

Local Natives, on their Spiral Choir world tour supporting their new album Violet Street, then hit the stage with new track “Shy”, the five piece electrifying a very hyped up crowd with a track they only started playing on this run of shows. Their stage set up was pretty simple – and portable! – a couple of signs on either side of the stage with their latest album typography, designed I think too look like cassettes? And there was some great lighting throughout the night too.

“Wide Eyes” took the crowd back to their debut LP straight after, and they spent most of the show jumping between new and old. “We’re here to celebrate the release of our latest album which came out last month,” they told the crowd early on, “but we’ll play some older tracks too.” They then ripped into one of their best tracks, “close your eyes”, with the cowbell cranked up to 11.

“Coins” wasn’t far behind, and then “Megaton Mile”, which they described as “a song about the apocalypse”, proved a live highlight of the night, followed by “Ceilings” – one of only two tracks off Hummingbird to make the set (“You & I” was the other). Later, “Past Lives” got a great response, as did “Fountain of Youth”. They took a moment to reflect on when they were in Toronto last time, and thanked Vancouver, with keyboardist and vocalist Kelcey Ayer remarking, “now every city I’m in I’m like “remember Toronto!”, as he tries not to embarrass himself again.

“Airplanes” had a great signalong, as did “Mt. Washington” which followed (which Ryan Hahn dedicated to his Toronto partner and her family). “Sun Hands”, always a set highlight and no exception tonight, saw Taylor Rice jump into the crowd while an all out jam ensued.

Honestly the show could have ended here and everyone would have been happy. But the set continued after this high point, with “You & I”, “Garden of Elysian”, “Dark Days” (and they took out a moment to share with the class that Ryan was responsible for this song and celebrate his songwriting skills), and “When Am I Gonna Lose You” closed the main set.

The encore kicked off with one of the first ever live plays of their new track “Gulf Shores” off of the Violet Street LP, yet another new track that sounded great live. And then we left the night with a huge signalong for their final track, “Who Knows Who Cares”. You know the part. And I couldn’t help but keep singing it on the whole car ride home.

All in all, it was a phenomenal Monday night in Toronto. Both bands put everything they had into their performance, and a few cheers for the Raptors didn’t go astray. For Natives, I was surprised not to hear “Breakers” off Hummingbird, but otherwise it was a practically perfect set, as the headliners balanced new and old well, fitting in just about all of their fan favourites along the way. Their voices and instrumentation were immaculate, and the new material was already fleshed out nicely. Especially impressive given these are the first shows featuring the tracks. You can say the same for Middle Kids and their new material, too!

Don’t miss Local Natives when they hit Australia for Splendour and some sideshows in July! Middle Kids will be back in July too, to play River Sessions in Mackay.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Local Natives and Middle Kids continue their tour around North America with the below dates, and then Local Natives return to Australia for Splendour in the Grass and some shows.

Remaining Local Natives and Middle Kids Tour Dates:

05/28 – Montreal, QC @ Rialto Theatre
‪05/30 – Boston, MA @ Paradise‬
‪05/31 – Boston, MA @ Paradise‬
06/01 – Pittsburg, PA @ Stage AE
06/03 – Washington, DC ‪@ 9:30‬ Club
06/04 – Washington, DC ‪@ 9:30‬ Club
‪06/06 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel‬
‪06/07 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel‬
‪06/10 – Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz‬
‪06/11 – Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theater‬
‪06/13 – San Antonio, TX @ The Aztec Theater‬
‪06/14 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues‬
‪06/15 – Austin, TX @ Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater‬
‪06/17 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre‬
‪06/19 – San Diego, CA @ North Park Theatre‬
‪06/20 – Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory‬
‪06/21 – Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater‬
‪06/22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium‬

Middle Kids will also appear at the following shows:

Tues 25 Jun – Heaven, London, UK‬
‪Sat 29 Jun – River Sessions, Mackay QLD‬

‪Local Natives will also appear at the following shows in Australia:‬

‪Friday 19 July – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney‬
Saturday 20 July – The Espy, Melbourne‬
Sunday 21 July – Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay – Sold Out‬

Local Natives’ new record Violet Street is out now. Middle Kids’ new EP New Songs For Old Problems also dropped last week on Domino. For more details on the albums, and for tickets to the shows, head to Local Natives’ official website or Middle Kids’ official website.

The reviewer attended the performance at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on 27th May 2019.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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