Toro y Moi offered tired, indecisive show at Mr. Smalls

By Chris Estes / For The Pitt News

At 11 p.m. on Thursday night, Chaz Bundick, who goes by the stage name Toro y Moi, checked in on his fans, asking them, “How are you guys doing?” Before the cheers were over, he powered through the remaining 30 minutes of his set at Mr. Smalls Theatre.

Headliner Toro y Moi and his four-man band performed tracks with a ‘70s-inspired sound, different from the soulful house records they have produced in the past. With a little help from his guitar, the instrument that helped move the artist in a new, funky direction in his latest album, “What For?,” Toro y Moi performed a feel-good set for the night’s crowd. Neither Toro y Moi nor its opener, Vinyl Williams, were particularly vocal or engaged with the audience, which was mostly comprised of white, 20-something men.

The show began at 9 p.m. with the Los Angeles-based Vinyl Williams, an experimental pop group. A male vocalist/keyboardist sporting a full, curly head of hair led the one-woman, four-man band. The lead vocalist crooned out indecipherable lyrics to an atmospheric set for a little under an hour.

The setlist of songs from Toro y Moi’s latest album complemented the summery Pittsburgh weather, and made for a fun, easy-going concert environment. With beers in hand, the crowd assembled close to the stage to enjoy Toro y Moi’s new music. Unlike its past three albums, where it relied heavily on the synthetic sounds of the keyboard, Toro y Moi utilized the guitar on its fourth album to create 10 cheerful, uncharacteristic new songs.

Vinyl Williams prefaced Toro y Moi’s performance with a decidedly average performance. The crowd, divided between Mr. Smalls’ bar area and the main stage, was politely attentive, but not captivated with the opening act. A morphing, trippy projection played above the backdrop while red lights shone down on the band from above. From behind his keyboard, the curly-haired lead vocalist sang along to the band’s ambient sound while those directly in front of the stage watched.

Toro y Moi occasionally sat the guitar down, returning to its musical roots — the keyboard — to perform tracks off of its more electronic, penultimate album, “Anything in Return.” The disparity between the often sensual and laid-back sound of “Anything” and the upbeat guitar tracks off of “What For?” was obvious. Their four-man band seemed relatively unfazed by the dissimilarity, playing along without any change in their energy or movement. The lighting seemed to be the only aspect of the stage to react to the change. It transitioned from deep blues and reds when Bundick stood behind his keyboard, to multi-colored, psychedelic lighting when he went back to wielding the guitar.

The crowd, mostly comprised of guys sporting undercuts and groomed facial hair, reacted to the variation in sound by bobbing their heads along to the upbeat new music.

The encore performance of Toro y Moi’s biggest hit, “So Many Details,” put Bundick behind the keyboard once again. As the excitement in the room reached its peak, fans let loose whatever inhibitions they had, dancing more emphatically and singing along.

Past the bright lights, Toro y Moi’s performance faltered in the details. With his late greeting, Bundick seemed aloof and tired to the monotonous crowd, and his eclectic set of keyboard-heavy songs juxtaposed with guitar-heavy ballads just didn’t mesh well in the wayward performance.

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