Show Review // Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys at The Sinclair
Show Review // Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys at The Sinclair

Show Review // Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys at The Sinclair

Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys played at The Sinclair last week and it was a barnburner of a show that left their fans, old and new alike, dancing along. The openers were Drop Bear, Astral Bitch, and Sapling and they all put on a wonderful performance. Drop Bear sounded a lot like a lively throwback to 90’s alternative rock. Astral Bitch wowed everyone with their grungy set and Market Basket inspired t-shirts. Sapling is self-described “bitch pop” and played a violently quirky, impressive set. After the openers the audience was treated to the premiere of the Toys new music video Keep My Head. The video was a rococo-themed visual feast featuring a dance that was reminiscent of a dirty macarena. The song itself is catchy bop that makes for a great ear worm. In the video Walter dances around wearing black and white stripes with a woman whose head is a giant tv like a slightly more frenzied Beetlejuice. The video is great and deserves its very own article.

Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys had 9 current and former members performing on stage. They played instruments ranging from guitar, viola, drums, cello, tambourine, and standup bass to more surprising instruments like ukulele, accordion, flute, melodica, shakers, and a singing bowl with several of the members playing more than one instrument. Each member was dressed distinctively with tulle, sequins, brocade, seat belt webbing, a fedora, sunglasses, and plenty of black and white stripes. Together as a band, they are theatrical and chaotic, yet mostly controlled with a distinct rock sound that touches on a multitude of genres such as hip hop, rockabilly, and even psychedelic music. Their leader, Walter Alice Sickert, has a distinct sounding voice, strong and versatile. The other singers, Mary Widow and Edrie are also incredibly talented– Mary is a fierce performer. Walter pepper’s their banter with lots of affirmations and love. In a touching act, they encouraged the people in the crowd who were anxious about being around a lot of people at the show. “You came outside in the world, and you are peopling.”

Many of the lyrics to the songs are whimsical, some reminiscent of a twisted nursery rhyme, some of films. Such as “lonely children sing a sad song with me, lonely children follow us to the sea, children dance along to this beat” and “these are the 28 seeds that we sow, some up in heaven some down below, these are the 28 seeds that we sow, some natural disasters, some man made you know.” In Dull Boy Walter intoned “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, all work and no play makes blood and destroys.”

There was a lot of banter between songs. Some of it was hard to make out clearly because there were so many people on stage talking at once. Before last summer’s hit Goth Beach Walter said “I want to dedicate this next song to someone who is here tonight. They know I love them…Robert Smith, I love you.” They encouraged the audience to clap along to songs because “your clapping can burn down the patriarchy.” The band is great at stagecraft. It was more than the costumes–they had something going on with each song be it singing from the middle of the audience, costume changes, topless dancers, and someone wearing a giant tv on their head while dancing during a flute solo.

My favorite song of the evening was Come Black Magic from the 2016 album of the same name. You could tell it was an older song for the band because it was super tight, and everyone seemed to be grooving along. There was one amusing moment between songs when Walter disappeared off stage, presumably for a costume change. There was a bit of an awkward pause then Walter returned and explained that they were wrong earlier when they said “I’m a chaos Muppet, fuck set lists” because they had just accidentally walked off stage a song too early. They quickly recovered by saying “this is the song my grandma taught me in the tub” and launching into the next song leaving me wondering if it really was a song she taught them in the tub or was that just an idiosyncratic thing to say to distract from the awkwardness? In either case, it worked. Walter wrapped up the last song by coming upstairs into the audience while singing. An impressive feat to stay focused while climbing the crowded staircase. The Toys put on a great show full of wonder, whimsy, and exceptional music!

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