There is something enchantingly awkward about Majical Cloudz and their music. It could be the way each of the duo’s songs follow a similar cadence. Vocalist Devon Welsh’s distinctive rich voice spins tales of love and friendship earned and lost over Matthew Otto’s minimalist swells and gurgling percussion. The poster announcing this early 2016 tour summed it up best—a tight close-up of Devon’s face with an uncomfortable smile plastered to it and his Adam’s apple stuck in mid-bob. If anyone is an unlikely rock star, it would be Welsh. However, the Montreal pair has soared from small potatoes to opening for Lorde last year.

During an emotional hour-long performance, Majical Cloudz explored the songs from its two LPs and recently released EP, playing intense, heartrending versions to an appreciative crowd. Dressed in black, Otto hunched over his computer panel providing the rhythms to match Welsh—who stood at the front of the stage armed only with a microphone, singing nakedly honest songs without an instrument to hide behind. Sometimes Welsh stared into the crowd with an expression of terror, others he swayed to Otto’s beat while punching the air to accentuate a particularly poignant lyric. It felt like the most intense karaoke bar you’ve ever attended—if the people singing did it professionally.

Elements of a religious service surround a Majical Cloudz performance. A hush settled over the crowd. No one seemed willing to break the spell in the quiet moments between songs. Besides one shouted request, the club remained silent.

Welsh gives himself up in his lyrics. Death and love. In person he is all angles—from his shaved head to chiseled jaw line. Yet it’s Welsh’s haunted eyes, the whites bulging, that make him so mesmerizing to watch. You can’t look away even when some of the songs topple over your threshold for heartache.

But reality can break any spell. Halfway through the set Otto left the stage to presumably vomit in the bathroom, leaving Welsh alone with his microphone. Without his partner, the frontman couldn’t do anything but offer apologies. He handled it well, even if he refused to answer a fan’s question about what was going on. Otto was probably gone five minutes, but it must have felt interminable for Welsh. It was awkward, but it fit the evening nicely. Is there anything more visceral than vomiting? Well, maybe some of the songs in the small songbook by Magical Cloudz.

Welsh announced at the show’s end that after the final three songs there would be no encore. Welsh and Otto remained good to their word, finishing up with new gem “Downtown,” their early masterpiece “This is Magic” and a plaintive version of “Silver Rings” that saw Welsh reaching for some very high notes. Then the pair said goodbye and walked off stage. Sometimes life adds an almost too perfect footnote. The door on stage left was locked, so Welsh simply stood there waiting as the houselights came on until Otto ran across the stage, around the back and opened it for him. Maybe he’ll find a song in that.

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