Tove Lo + ALMA @ MTelus – 15 February 2020

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I have never felt less out of place at a moment when I felt so underdressed. If there is one word that characterizes the varied crowd from Tove Lo’s sold-out show at MTelus this weekend, it’s fashion. Specifically: 90’s fashion. From the mesh tees to the Doc Martins, ranging from streetwear to club chic, I have never seen a crowd so well turned out, and this one also has the obligatory effortlessness of Montreal, regardless of the season.

And yet, I don’t give a fuck that I opted for leggings and a button-down over a tank top. I’m getting over a terrible cold, and after washing my hair, I just didn’t have the energy left for pizazz of any kind – and Montreal does not mind. This is not a judgmental crowd; they welcome both iridescent warmup jackets over sports bras and plaid shirts paired with hiking boots. Actually… maybe I do fit in. In one way I definitely do – it’s my first concert (and review) of the year, but I feel like I never left. And even though I’m still a little congested, I have faith that, like last year, pop can cure all my ills.

ALMA definitely contributes to the warm welcome I feel like I’m receiving. She makes it feel as though you’re walking into a party she’s hosting, on stage already with a DJ, neon hair swinging around her, dressed like a badass biker. Her sultry, gritty sound is unforced, making me think of Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. She performs a kickass set, using her short time to make the packed house fall in love with her sound, and ends with a personal favourite: “Chasing High.” She also teaches the crowd how to pronounce the headliner’s name – it sounds like toovay-loo – before she leaves the stage. (Now you know how it should sound in your head for the rest of the review.)

I first heard and saw Tove Lo at Osheaga 2017, but she was first there in 2015. As she points out later in the show, she actually has four albums to pull from. Even though this is her first time headlining in Montreal, she’s not new to us, and if the packed house doesn’t prove it, then the fact that everyone knows all the words to every song does. As a reviewer, I got the heads up that Tove Lo broke her ankle, and so would be performing seated, but I’m not sure if the rest of the fans are in the know. I await their reaction when she takes the stage. It’s so shitty for her, especially when her songs are so upbeat, and this crowd is clearly so excited, I wonder if it will affect the energy.

The stage is set with a beautiful baroque chair and risers on either side of the stage for the drummer, keyboardist, and guitarist. The backdrop is an arch, and since the tour is called Sunshine Kitty, and Tove Lo is iconically queer, I’m expecting a rainbow. 

Tove Lo walks across the stage with the aid of a single crutch and a medical boot, and the arch is revealed to be not an arch at all but a half-moon LED screen featuring a sunrise, although that changes throughout the show. I wonder how she will address her seated performance, with a joke or an apology, but I’m surprised: she doesn’t address the crowd until after her fourth song. She doesn’t need to – they are going nuts for her latest bangers: “Glad He’s Gone”, “Just as Bad as the Boys”, and 2016’s hit off Lady Wood, “Cool Girl.” “Shifted” sounds like a Janet Jackson song, and even though Lo can’t dance, it’s not stopping anyone else in MTelus tonight. As the song ends, she finally says hello to the crowd and acknowledges the boot, “the definition of the show must go on” and promises “one fucking party.” She throws in some French, and then reminds the crowd, which is roaring in approval, that the dance section is up next. Lo uses her upper body to make up for the fact that she can’t use the stage, writhing energetically in her seat. I’m trying to be non-judgmental, but I wonder if they considered moving the rest of the band in front of the LED backdrop to help fill up the background a little. It’s just so empty. And her “Swedish boys” are so far away from her! (Try as I might, I cannot leave my picky, event planner head at home.)

When she sings “Talking Body,” I realize how mainstream Lo actually is; the high-school-aged girls standing by me are singing along, knowing every word, and I have a moment of pause: did I think Tove Lo was my secret? Certainly not for this song – the crowd gets involved, clapping the beat and singing the chorus. And even though she can’t, Lo tells the crowd when to get low and when to jump, punctuated by a “fuck yeah!” She’s putting in the work to keep the party going, and it’s almost good enough. But she doesn’t stop there: before she sings “Moments,” a keyboard is brought out, and Lo stands for this song to deafening applause, saying she couldn’t ask for a better crowd. Since she writes her music on the piano… even though she insists she is “not amazing at it…[the show] can’t feel too professional, it needs to feel me and be real.” And she does get even more real, talking about embracing her body the way it is notwithstanding the pressure she came under when “Habits” made it big. This song is about not being perfect, she announces, “and if I fuck up, it’s just charming” – echoing a lyric from the song. Par for the course, the crowd sings every note right along with her. 

After her fifteenth song, Lo announces that she has a “fuckton of songs” for us tonight, and she follows through with six more. Introducing “Come Undone” she jokes, “mon pied est triste!” before describing the breakup song: you know when you’re in love, and you’re on a fluffy cloud, but after you have that first big fight, you feel like you will never get back to that blissful place

“Anywhere u go” is an anthem, clearly, with its catchy, sing-a-long-ability and the highly relatable lyric, “get high by the beach all day,” but I’ve been waiting all night to hear, “Sweettalk My Heart.” She finally plays it for her encore, joking about how she would normally run out and come back… and no explanation is needed for this sympathetic crowd. She couldn’t have made them any happier, but she stays to perform two more songs, making a total of twenty-one, which is, I’m pretty sure, a record, at least as far as my history as a reviewer goes. 

Before I head out, both a rainbow and a cartoon kitty grace the LED screen, and I get to hear “Habits.” I thought she might cut the show short, that her ass would be numb, and that she was undoubtedly taking something for the pain, but she doesn’t take a break. Tove Lo owns that room she sold-out, and it’s a guarantee she can fill it again because the only thing she failed to do was disappoint a single fan that night.

SET LIST

  1. Glad He’s Gone
  2. Bad as the Boys featuring ALMA
  3. Cool Girl
  4. Shifted 
  5. Influence
  6. Are u gonna tell her
  7. Jacques
  8. Talking Body 
  9. Really don’t like u
  10. disco tits
  11. Moments 
  12. hey you got drugs?
  13. Bitches featuring ALMA
  14. True Disaster
  15. Mateo
  16. Come Undone
  17. Anywhere u go
  18. Out Of Mind
  19. Sweettalk my Heart
  20. Habits (Stay High)
  21. Bikini Porn

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda
Photos – Eric Brisson

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