Photos by Elizabeth Mitaro
Toronto’s one-man-band, John O’Regan, a.k.a Diamond Rings
commandeered the New York stage this frigid Monday night at Mercury Lounge. A lanky vision in red high tops and gold lamé, he quickly heated up the venue with an electric performance, the hundred or so that had gathered hung on to his every fabulous move.
Back turned to the crowd, a fingerless gloved fist thrust up the air in time to the beat, Diamond Rings started off with “Play By Heart” which also opens his recently released debut, Special Affections. O’Regan bolstered the glam aesthetic with lyrically coordinated dance moves, throwing himself to the stage floor to emphasize the start of the chorus: “I was running around but I fell to the ground and now I’m too scared to get up.”
Armed with a laptop, an electric guitar, a keyboard, and pure showmanship, O’Regan proved himself a master at switching up the pace. He transitioned fluidly from faster pulsing numbers to the more dramatic slower ones, keeping the energy of the crowd entirely with him the whole time. It was these more contemplative numbers that truly served to showcase O’Regan’s talent beyond obvious entertainment value. His unassailable baritone filled the room; a tangible presence that proved his New Order meets Talking Heads brand of electro-pop could stand entirely on its own.
O’Regan’s androgynous confidence proved contagious. By mid-set, the audience was mirroring his dance moves, swinging hips without inhibition and openly singing along. The theatrical shedding of his leather jacket before playing “You And Me,” a sweet keyboard solo peppered ditty, was met with cheers.
Despite a wardrobe malfunction, stinging eyes from a regrettable new hairspray purchase, Diamond Rings persevered through nine songs without so much as smudging his cat-eye makeup. He closed out the night with “Show Me Your Stuff,” a catchy number teeming with clubby synth beats made complete with a rap interlude. O’Regan managed to entertain, perform, and keep it personal all at once, refereeing an audience cheering contest and shouting out to his dad at the merch table before heading offstage. Aww. He’s a hard character not to like. If he keeps it up, Diamond Rings may just be everyone’s best friend.