TOPS fans have been waiting for over a year to see the Montreal-native indie rock band perform live in Boston, after their last show was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. With the first signs of autumn chill in the air, fans huddled into the cozy Brighton Music Hall, like me, seemingly trying to remember the concert etiquette.
Sean Nicholas Savage opened the show and truly stole our hearts, putting on a show that was somehow whimsical and heart-wrenching at the same time. Elegantly turtlenecked and curiously barefoot, Savage introduced the crowd to many songs off of his new album, “Life is Crazy,” written and released during the height of the pandemic.
TOPS opened the show with their new single, “Party Again” which was released in July 2021. “Party Again,” is a slightly different take on TOPS’ more traditionally indie sound, a lean into an icier synth pop direction. TOPS was so effortlessly chill, so effortlessly cool on stage. The four-piece band donned coordinated blue and white outfits right out of your dream capsule wardrobe, perfectly paired with their minimalist and cool sound. In her own words, frontwoman Jane Penny was on her “Shania Twain bullshit.”
Much to the delight of the crowd, Penny pulled out the flute for “Direct Sunlight,” from their 2020 album I Feel Alive. Penny has an understated but deeply comforting stage presence, I spent most of the show wondering whether I wanted to be her or to marry her. Penny’s vocals were deeply impressive live. In the years that I’ve known TOPS, I hadn’t realized the complexity of her tone, somehow crisp and hushed all at once, which shines through on stage. “Superstition Future” from the 2014 album Picture You Staring and “OK Fine Whatever” followed, crescendoing with the warm and jubilant “I Feel Alive” which got the crowd singing and dancing. “Colder & Closer” was also a highlight, followed by “The Hollow Sound of the Morning Chimes,” which cooled us down before the band broke into the 2014 hit “Way to be Loved.” During the instrumental portions of the song, Penny twirled around the stage to the hooting and hollering of the crowd as the band jammed out in the back. I’ve since had it on repeat, trying to squeeze out of my phone an ounce of the pure joy that is “Way to be Loved” performed live. The band finished off the night in a one song encore with “Easier Said.” As the song slowly stripped down, the band members dropped off one by one until only guitarist David Carriere and drummer Riley Fleck remained on stage to call it a night.
It’s been over two years since I’ve been to a concert and TOPS was as good a reminder of the magic of live music as I could have asked for. I’m looking forward to seeing where TOPS goes next and hopefully new releases mean a return to Boston sometime soon. In the meantime, I’ll be stuck trying to relive their show in memory.