Show Review: Cass McCombs At The Horseshoe Tavern

By Harry Myles, Feature Photo via Exclaim!

A cheer came from the crowd as the bassist, drummer, keyboardist, and bongo player walked on stage. An unassuming man clad in a black button down shirt, ill-fitting mid-2000s jeans, and black sneakers followed soon after, armed with an electric guitar. Cass McCombs would take the audience of the Horseshoe Tavern through the spectrum of his discography, playing songs from his 2009 album Catacombs to his latest release. Calming folk transitioned to the riffs of psychedelic blues-infused rock to twangy alt country tunes, drawing the crowd closer and closer over the course of two hours.

On Wednesday, October 26, McCombs played the Horseshoe as part of his Mangy Love tour. Released this past summer, Mangy Love marks McCombs eighth studio album since 2002 and maintained his signature blend of rock and roll, country, and folk. Multi-instrumentalist Delicate Steve and his band of the same name opened for the main act, playing a mellow set of twangy surf rock instrumentals and hazy vocals.

Stuttering guitar, slow-fueled percussion, and McCombs’ soft voice soon filled the Tavern, lulling the crowd into a gentle sway. The talented singer-songwriter displayed his poetic prowess, opening with the charming “Opposite House” followed by the politically charged “Bum Bum Bum”. Together with his lyricism, from “Medusa’s Outhouse” to the soothing classics of Catacombs “Dreams Come True Girl,” and 2011’s “Robin Egg Blue,” McCombs sang an atmosphere of serenity and bliss. Much of the packed house seemed to be lost amidst the subtle plucks and spotless falsettos as they closed their eyes and absorbed the folksy lullabies. At various points, the band then shook the audience from their reverie with the riff-filled “Rancid Girl” and a cover of the Skiffle Player’s “Coo Coo Bird” along with blended instrumental solos. It was these splashes of blues and grooves where you saw McCombs reveal his inner rock heart and lose himself within an endless series of chord progressions, drum beats, and bass drops. As I walked along Spadina two hours later with a stiff back and cramped legs, I was still swaying to the gentle melodies. A veteran of the scene, McCombs produced a pleasant show of his many hits and offered a nice respite to the midterms season.

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