By Ian Kaufman
For a young band approaching a place at Canada’s indie rock table, a quietly-promoted show on a Thunder Bay Monday night seemed an inauspicious conclusion to CAIRO’s national tour. And while the Toronto-based group was note-perfect and technically impressive throughout their short set on November 2nd, the sense of anticlimax hung over the show.
CAIRO is clearly an ambitious band on the rise. Regulars on the Toronto music scene since 2011, they released their debut EP, A History of Reasons, earlier this year to positive reviews from alternative media like Exclaim!, after signing with label MapleMusic Recordings. The album sounds deliberately radio-ready, and while they cite influences including Andrew Bird, Aiden Knight, and Father John Misty, the songs share more with bigger (and more self-serious) acts like Incubus and label-mates 311.
A sound that seems crafted for stadiums felt outsized in the mostly-empty Foundry, where the band found a warm but restrained reception from the audience of about two dozen people. Nate Daniel ’s soaring vocals, sometimes modulated, took centre stage on most songs, with guitar and violin adding texture. A workmanlike rhythm section capably built momentum and tension without drawing too much attention to itself.
Hardly a note was out of place through their relatively short set, with vocal harmonies that were pitch-perfect from the first song, and a live sound that unexpectedly did justice to the rich layering on their record.
For all that, their poised and efficient performance failed to generate a sense of occasion or emotional engagement. Blame it on the night of the week, end-of-tour fatigue, or the small, reticent crowd – but the group seemed happy enough to leave the stage after a set that lasted barely 35 minutes. Given their signing with label MapleMusic, a strong and radio-friendly debut album, and a flawless live show, one can imagine a warmer reception on the band’s next Thunder Bay visit.