Published Jun 13, 2016Even the common cold can't keep Claire Boucher (a.k.a. Grimes) down.
A couple of songs into her late-afternoon set on the main stage at Bestival Toronto's 2016 edition, the Canadian singer/songwriter/producer extraordinaire admitted she was battling a nasty cold. The packed crowd of festival attendees — made up of everything from hungover club kids to mothers and daughters to aging music snobs — didn't seem to notice, let alone mind.
Once restricted to creating her beautiful beats behind a circuit of electronics onstage, Boucher is now totally uncompromising and uninhibited live, commanding crowds with her effervescent stage presence with every angular movement of her hands and syllable from her mouth.
It was hard to think of a better act to open for the Cure. For seven years now, Boucher has split her interests somewhere between purist pop stardom and the menacing, industrial, experimental underground, delivering songs with equal amounts of melody, ambience and menace. Nowhere was this more evident than on Art Angels, her most recent album and, let's face it, a strong contender to take the 2016 Polaris Music Prize.
With a trio of dancers (one of whom did triple duty, providing backup vocals and occasional electronic percussion) to fill out the stage with their pre-planned dance moves and props (including blood red ribbons, silver scythes and glowing green fingers), hers was the most raw and powerful performance of the festival, with Boucher's angelic voice and guttural growls staying in the minds of listeners long after the delay on her mic had died down.
Even without collaborators Janelle Monáe and Aristophanes, "Venus Fly" and "SCREAM" came across as strongly as their studio versions, while "Flesh Without Blood" and "Realiti" were even better. Her recent tracks sounded so good, older cuts like "Genesis" and "Oblivion" almost sounded weaker in comparison.
That's probably a good sign. One of the most self-assured songwriters around, Grimes seemed destined for greatness, and after watching her Bestival performance, it's hard to imagine anything holding her back.