Blood Orange is Dev Hynes’ second successful music project in addition to his start in the dance punk band, Test Icicles. Following his departure, Hynes created his chamberpoppish Lightspeed Champion project. The end of Lightspeed Champion’s run came on as Hynes required surgery to repair severe damage to his throat. While he popped up at the occasional festival gig, Hynes mostly worked in solitude on personal projects. The fruits of these labours resulted in the embryo of his most recent and most successful project. Blood Orange’s mix of electronica and R & B first appeared in performances in London and NYC with Hynes playing guitar and laptop. The Coastal Grooves album was met with raves. The follow up, Cupid Deluxe featured guests such as Clams Casino and members of Dirty Projectors and Chairlift.
2016’s Freetown Sound has taken Hynes and his Blood Orange moniker near the mainstream. An album sure to be found on many ‘best of’ lists, Freetown Sound ups the ante of guest performers (Nelly Furtado, Debbie Harry and recipient of some of Hynes’ external songwriting, Carly Rae Jepsen). A leap of concept and production, Freetown Sound speaks of pride, concern and defence of black, queer and feminist life. It’s a dense listen full of emotion, compelling serious thought but demands that you stand up, scream, smile and dance. Those lucky enough to get their hands on a sought-out ticket for one of his few shows of the year got to witness and participate in this actively.
Blood Orange came to Toronto on September 21 to play before a packed sold-out audience at the Danforth Music Hall. Opening the show on keyboard backed with his two stunning singers, Ava Raiin and Eva Tolkin, Hynes sang By Ourselves. The rest of the band joined and the 80s drum machine beat of St. Augustine got the Hall dancing. The beat continued as Hynes moved through most of Freetown. An acolyte of Michael Jackson moves, Hynes encouraged all to dance like everyone else was watching and loved you for your bravery. A swell of emotions hit when singer, Eva Tolkin took on Nelly Furtado’s vocal solo on Hadron Collider. The hugs, tears and chorus singalong made this song one of the night’s favourites.
The Blood Orange band was immensely tight in front of a simple but powerful modular stage design by LA artist Clare Gillen. I’m not alone in knowing that this show, while one of the most anticipated of 2016, lived up to all the hype.