X Ambassadors // The Rivoli // 01. 08. 13
X Ambassadors—a soul funk band who started out in Ithaca, NY—have spent the summer opening for Imagine Dragons and playing alongside The Neighbourhood. This fall, they’ll be opening for Passion Pit at Hamilton’s Supercrawl and at Wilfrid Laurier University.
AMBY teamed up with Universal Music Canada to present X Ambassador’s show at Toronto’s The Rivoli, on the first of August. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made their performance so good. Thinking back, though, my friend figured it out just one song in. As they finished playing “Down With Me” (the third track off of their album Love Songs Drug Songs), she leaned over and said, “Wow, they’re very suggestive.”
The comment applied mostly to Sam, whose dancing was sensual, full of thrusting, and non-stop. He was definitely the flare of the band and multi-talented, as he managed to play the drums and sax all while singing and dancing. At the points in the show when Sam was smashing on the skins and Casey on the keys, their brotherly similarities unmasked themselves: they both moved like music-making, violent waves.
The suggestiveness only grew throughout the night. ‘Come a little closer,’ said Sam. You guys are too far away.’ No one hesitated in closing the gap between audience and performer(s), giving in to the magnetism of their music. The heavy drums of “Love Songs Drug Songs” rolled through our ribcages, and exploding with even more charisma, Sam said, ‘Alright you horny bastards, here’s a sexy one for you,’ his preface to the track “Stranger.”
Sam called Toronto generous, and so ‘goddamn good looking it’s crazy,’ before playing the also beautiful “Litost.” (the track lent its name to the album released under their band Ambassadors, no X). But there was something more goddamn beautiful than the crowd that night, and it was the lyrics of “Litost.” How can you get more gorgeously genuine than, “And these flies kept me sleeping / All my fears on their wings” with background instrumentation that’s both minimal and commanding.
As Sam said “we have two more songs for you,” Casey played a dreamy, surreal sounding piano sequence. With the Rivoli’s twinkle lights strung above us, their was a prevailing whoa feeling, as though he was scoring our collective descent into a dreamscape.
Second to last was “Unconsoable,” the saxophone ending extended, and Sam saying, ‘you guys have been so fucking great, thank you.’ We could have echoed the comment back to the band, but the exuberant cheers were enough of a non-verbal thank you. The cheers were even greater after their closing song of the night, “Brother,” my favourite track off of Love Songs Drug Songs.
Sam’s an expert in translating the intense passion of their music to the stage. X Ambassadors have quickly become a musical favorite, and chatting with them after the set—as the instruments were packed up and the crowd thinned out—confirmed that they truly love engaging in that translation, putting on a show that warms you up and trips you out, like a good love song and a good drug song.
For photos of X Ambassadors, click here.