After acknowledging the significance of performing on September 11th, Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan let the audience know it was also the birthday of an ecstatic (in every sense of the word) young man in the front row; after which, Greenspan proceeded to lead the audience in “Happy Birthday”. Good sports, those Canadians. Junior Boys’ throbbing, infectious set followed solid openers Young Galaxy at Minneapolis’s First Avenue last night, reinforcing my high opinion of crossover Canadian synth-pop.
I was skeptical of Young Galaxy, fronted by ex-Stars touring guitarist Stephen Ramsay, after seeing singer Catherine McCandless’s white flowing robe and dramatic hand gestures. But the five-piece played a polite set of their dreamy calypso, focusing on newer material like “Phantoms” and “Cover Your Tracks” off their latest release, Shapeshifting. In fact, their more recent tropicalia-inflected material sounded the most dynamic live. I had hoped they would find some way to play their remix of Austra’s “Lose It” but no such luck. My only complaint was that McCandless’s voice lost some of its luster live, diminished by the tight, heavy drums and booming keyboards.
Junior Boys’ performance was flawlessly executed. The opening bars of “Parallel Lines” didn’t have the same icy distance and precision as recorded, but it almost sounded better live: Greenspan’s rich, clear vibrato evokes more pathos on songs like the new “You’ll Improve Me” and “Count Souvenirs” off So This Is Goodbye. Other songs from this year’s It’s All True, like the bouncy “A Truly Happy Ending”, sounded exciting and fresh, but older material received the best reaction from the audience. Junior Boys played quite a few songs from their sophomore release, including “In the Morning” and my personal favorite, “Double Shadow”. When they returned for an encore with “Banana Ripple”, Greenspan and even his laconic keyboardist Matt Didemus couldn’t stop smiling at the audience’s—even the birthday boy’s—grateful enthusiasm.