Perturbator + Bulkhead @ The Velvet Underground, 1 October 2017

Time to turn back the clock. The Velvet Underground is alive with retrofuturists as French synthwave artist Perturbator, James Kent, hits Toronto for the second night in a row, following last night’s sold out performance. This hotly anticipated show was originally scheduled for the Saturday but was moved to Monday, which explains why the venue is not as busy as the debut Toronto show on the Sunday night.

Toronto’s own Bulkhead is the sole support tonight. Electronic music is the weapon of choice here but a far cry from the retro electro nostalgia that the headliner envisions. This duo engineer relatively straight-forward nightclub music but there is little in the way of colour or excitement. It’s too unimaginative and simply feels like background music. The audience are not enthused by the performance and the set feels like it drags on longer than it should. Those who opted to arrive later had the right idea.

The excitement is palpable during the changeover. After what feels like an eternity, Perturbator takes over the stage to a fevered Velvet Underground. No time is wasted as ‘Neo Tokyo’ from ‘The Uncanny Valley‘ conjures a rain-slicked futuristic mega city, tense with drama, heaviness and cybernetic atmosphere. Vertical lines of lights illuminate Perturbator donning a leather jacket and over a hoodie with his hood up. For someone who wasn’t even conceived in the ’80s, Kent sure can faithfully detail the decade.

The opener is chased down by the Giorgio Morodor-inspired ‘Disco Inferno’, full of dance-able seventies bass hooks. Sinister sci-fi atmosphere is the centre-piece of older number ‘Technoir’, which is counterbalanced sublimely by the lascivious and glitzy ‘Sexualizer’, one of the best anthems of night.

‘Satanic Rites’ reveals Perturbator’s historic metal meddling with extremely heavy distortion bolstering a romantic reverence for the anti-Christian. ‘Venger’ is the only track of the set with recorded vocals and Greta Link’s soothing pop voice colour is a perfect dance floor-filling song on a just planet.

Very recently, Perturbator released his new EP ‘New Model‘ and two songs off this comparatively less ’80s obsessed effort seep into the venue – ‘Tactical Precision Disarray’ and ‘Tainted Empire’, both sporting a serious Nine Inch Nails sheen.

Silhouetted by the skyscraper lights blasting technicolour tides, Perturbator doesn’t speak for the entirety of the performance and barely produces much of a stage presence besides the odd spot of headbanging. Meanwhile, the audience is wirelessly connected, feeding off every track. The lack of bodies compared to the sold out affair of the first night is a positive when you consider body temperatures increased by dancing.

‘Tainted Empire’ concludes the set, which feels a little anticlimactic given how new the EP is and the crowd’s ostensible lack of familiarity with it. However, Perturbator returns with a final ode to the ’80s – the delectable one-two punch of ‘Welcome Back’ and ‘Perturbator’s Theme’, which procure the most calamitous reaction of the night and finalizes Monday flawlessly.