Having cycled through years of mutual adoration and reciprocal influence by way of various collaborative projects, forever emblematized by their DRINKS team-up, Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley set out on another of their many tours, a legacy that started back in Presley’s earlier White Fence days.
Le Bon and Presley welcomed a sold-out show at the Fox Cabaret, the venue thick with endless, gin-tinted enthusiasm being blurted out by equally stoked fans from all corners of the echo chamber.
Dressed all in white, with chalky face paint to match, Presley’s band filtered onto a gear-covered stage. Le Bon was tucked modestly away with a bass guitar, forfeiting the spotlight entirely to Presley as he drifted into a reckless and unselfconscious set, a run-through of his latest album, — and first under his own name — The Wink.
Due to the combination of Presley’s charmingly reclusive and unmistakably genuine (non)gestures coupled with the theatrical, and somehow somber, influence of the band members’ bizarre and captivating all-white presence, Presley’s band leveraged a hazy and absurdist performance that felt a bit like astral intervention. Still, Presley’s dedication to crisp songwriting and persistently sublime — if at times abstract — lyricism rooted the performance to a deeper and more profound relevance, his lyrics being, no doubt, a large part of what so heavily captivates Presley fans.
Rebounding from one instrument to another, his bandmates seamlessly shifted roles throughout the show, at times double-teaming keyboards or drums. Regardless, they needed no cues from Presley himself, who was immersed in his own realm, pulling his eyes closed and guitar close, orienting his attention to the smooth enunciations of his lyrics and wafting vocals.
By the time Presley’s band moved into “ER,” no one’s gaze left the stage, a transfixion induced by the choppy and asymmetrical rhythmic configurations that shape so much of the album’s mood and melody. The performance dipped in and out of electronically-imbued spontaneity when least expected and Presley’s mild, on-stage composure, throughout the eccentric and erratically-charged set, doubtlessly did justice to the album’s immaculate production.
After a quick break, the band returned and reconfigured on stage, this time dressed in all black (the drummer seeming particularly relieved at the chance to wash off his sweat-and-paint-covered face). Central now, and with a palpably renewed sense of commitment, Le Bon strummed into “Crab Day,” from her most recent, likewise-titled album released last year by Drag City.
When Le Bon wasn’t holding the audience spellbound with her cosmic glance that seemed to further reverberate her bright vocals, she thrashed back and forth relentlessly, her feathery hair billowing around her face, her bandmates fully immersed in an attempt to keep up. Widely recognized as a tremendously talented guitar player, it’s no wonder that, in interviews, Presley has previously cited Le Bon as his favourite, and an unprecedentedly creative, guitarist. Le Bon’s staggering stage presence marks her as nothing short of a goddess, and her charmingly buoyant Welsh accent left the crowd totally endeared, with fans beaming in admiration at her sporadic banter.
While the majority of her set was comprised of Crab Day tracks, Le Bon pulled a few songs from her much-adored 2013 release, Mug Museum, with small voices in the crowd singing along in nostalgia. Just as the set flickered out and the stage cleared, Le Bon strode back out with her band and Tim Presley who (the only one who’d not bothered to wash off his face paint, which had now hilariously smeared across his demure and easy smile) drifted on stage for an encore of “Are You With Me Now?,” the crowd melting in the afterglow.