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Concert Review: Bernice & Charlotte Day-Wilson @ PHI Centre

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The night of April 22nd saw the Phi Centre opening its doors for an unforgettable showcase of two outstanding Toronto acts, complementary in many ways but diverse enough to keep the audience hooked.

Opening the show was Bernice, a six-piece electronic pop outfit fronted by Robin Dann. The band’s presence alone was formidable; there was something immediate in the way they were stationed under the cool lights. The music conveyed a similar power, with their weird knotty songs lying coiled beneath a deceptively smooth exterior. One striking detail of this setup was the prevalence of the electronic elements: synths, samplers, and a digital drum kit laid down a gorgeous, minimal foundation for the clear and understated vocals. The overall effect was one of supreme control and comfort, songs gracefully unfolding with a fine-tuned joy. By the time they hit their stride, the room was already packed and the audience was tuned in for this bracingly original set.

Offering a stark contrast, Charlotte Day-Wilson came with a far more conventional approach, though not unremarkable in and of itself. Backed simply by keys and a drummer, Charlotte tended to the sole vocal duty while busily trading off bass, sampler, guitar and saxophone, the latter eliciting a wild cheer from the crowd. Elements of funk, soul, hip-hop, and gospel coalesced seamlessly beneath her truly powerful voice, and with the aid of her flippant stage presence the room warmed quickly until the crowd was hanging off every beat drop and vocal somersault. All in all it was a head-spinning masterclass in the last half-century of popular music, tastefully arranged and presented by a commanding and singular voice.