Posts Tagged ‘concert review’

Machinedrum at SAT in Montreal

November 17, 2013

machinedrum

15 November 2013

Travis Stewart aka Machinedrum dropped by the SAT this weekend to showcase his newest album Vapor City, and he gave us an absolutely intense and amazing live performance. Armed with a guitar, his synths, a drum pad, a MIDI controller, a laptop running Ableton, and a live drummer, Stewart took Vapor City to new heights with loads of bass and reverb and the volume cranked to twelve.

I don’t know where he found his drummer, but the guy played non-stop for over an hour and pounded out drum ‘n bass beats at 120 to 192 bpm with no sign of ever wanting to stop. He was ridiculously tight and his on-stage energy was infectious. When the set began and I saw Stewart strap on a guitar, I was a bit worried it might not sound right, but he quickly proved me wrong with the first strum of “Center Your Love”, one of my favourite tracks off the new album. “Infinite Us” came next and they played a near twelve minute version of this song, extending sections and building the track to an incredible intensity that had the crowd pretty much going bonkers. And by the time they moved into the massive “Gunshotta”, empty cups were flying, some dude was crowd surfing, and the threat of a mosh pit started up in front of us.

Stewart also did a great job on vocals, looping and manipulating his vocal hooks seamlessly in the tracks. Watching him on stage, you could tell he’s been doing this for way longer than a minute – he was a straight up professional, operating several instruments at once, and doing it in style. They played the deepest cuts from Vapor City, including a down right dirty version of “Eyesdontlie” and a super tight version of “U Still Lie” that was reminiscent of M83 when the synths reached their deafening crescendo. I went to the show not really knowing what to expect, figuring that if I heard “Gunshotta” super loud in a club it’d be worth the price of admission, but instead Machinedrum blew it up big time, showing us he really knows how to throw down live.

We left the SAT and our ears were buzzing, and when I woke up in the morning with the chorus to “U Don’t Survive” in my head they were still ringing. A stellar show and a stellar album. If you haven’t heard Vapor City yet, I suggest you check it, because it’s gonna be on many a best of list in the coming weeks. Peace.

Photo cred: A. Rad Photo

Lusine, Local Natives, The Besnard Lakes

April 14, 2013

Hello all. I’ve seen some really great concerts lately, but unfortunately have been too busy to give them proper reviews, so here are some mini-reviews of the three best live shows I’ve seen in Montreal this spring …

LUSINE AT O PATROS VYS

lusine

22 march 2013

Jeff McIlwain aka Lusine has been producing his visceral, melodic strain of electronic music for over a decade now and I was lucky enough to catch him play a live set at O Patros Vys, in support of his excellent new album The Waiting Room. McIlwain is an underrated legend in the electronic music scene. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Lusine has never been in the forefront of the scene, has never played huge venues or been super hyped about on music blogs, yet he is revered by those in the know – and has been perfecting his bubbly analogue techno for years now. His live set was great and he kept the crowd dancing from beginning to end. He doesn’t tour very often so if he plays your town make sure you check him out. Love it.

LOCAL NATIVES AT LE NATIONAL

local natives

29 march 2013

L.A. scenesters Local Natives returned to Montreal in support of their sophomore album Hummingbird and played to a sold out crowd at Le National. I saw them the first time around in 2010 in Toronto and was very impressed and can only say their show has gotten even better. What impressed me most was their live vocal chops, as they effortlessly hit every note, whether in chorus or alone, reminding me at times of the powerful harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash — which is no small feat. The crowd sang and chanted along with the band (myself included), making it feel as if Local Natives have been around forever.

The songs from their debut album Gorilla Manor were absolutely amazing live – incredibly tight and soaring to new heights from the recorded material. The newer tracks, however, failed to reach the same heights live, as you could tell they were still working them out, still smoothing out the kinks a bit, but that didn’t mean they weren’t great too, they just paled a bit in sonic comparison. Overall, this show was powerful, emotional, and a tour de force from a young band still realizing their full potential. Great stuff!

THE BESNARD LAKES AT CABARET DU MILE END

blue light

13 april 2013

The mighty Besnards celebrated the release of their fourth record, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO and rocked out to a capacity crowd at Cabaret du Mile End. As always, their show was fantastic – they always sound even better live than on record and something about Jace Lasek’s voice and giant presence (not to mention the smoke machine and flashing lights) make The Besnard Lakes seem larger than life. I’ve seen them five times now and every time I’m happily transported on their sonic journey with them.

The band blasted through every song on their new record and were so tight it already sounded like they’ve been playing them for years. Rich White’s guitar was loud, and Jace Lasek’s voice was immaculate, as was Olga Goreas’ driving bass. They had vibraphone accompaniment for four songs, plus some horns and back up singers, which all helped expand their sound. New tracks “The Specter” and “Colour Yr Lights In” were highlights, and their new album shows a further maturity to the band’s talent as songwriters. To sum, The Besnard Lakes are most definitely still the roaring night. Fantastic show.

Tame Impala at Metropolis in Montreal

March 17, 2013

marquee2

11 march 2013

Australian rockers Tame Impala returned to Montreal and played a sold out crowd at Metropolis on Monday night. Even though it was a school night and a work night it didn’t stop teens and aging scenesters alike to cram the venue in droves. Showcasing tracks from their critically lauded 2012 release Lonerism and their equally awesome debut Innerspeaker, Kevin Parker and company revealed why they’re one of the most revered bands currently rocking in the “indie” world – because they sound both authentically throwback in the classic rock sense yet also very much of the right fucking now. We all agree Parker sounds like John Lennon and monster jam “Elephant” sounds like Sabbath, and that the band is indebted to 60’s American psychedelica and decades of British rock, yet with the release of Lonerism last year, they truly began carving out their own sonic niche and are happy to reveal this to their fans as they blast it out night after night on their massive 2013 world tour.

I saw the band play last year at Osheaga, but was still excited to see them in an indoor venue as I thought the sound would translate better indoors, and my suspicions were correct: their sound was bigger, louder, trippier, and more bad ass. What was also great is that they weren’t afraid to tweak their songs live, adding flourishes and time changes, extended riffs and solos, groovy intros and codas … in short, the show was awesome. Wafts of weed floated in the air for the duration of the show, and I completely zoned out in the vibe, staring up at the simple pulsing visuals behind them. The visuals weren’t much to look at (in fact they seemed laughably outdated), but were hooked up to the soundboard and worked in sync with Parker’s guitar and Nick Allbrook’s keys during quieter moments. Also of note is that Parker spoke en français in between many of the songs to the delight of the francophones in the crowd. All in all, it was an impressively tight set and refreshing to see a young band rocking out so earnestly. Great show.

SETLIST
Solitude Is Bliss
Apocalypse Dreams
Be Above It
Endors Toi
Music To Walk Home By
Elephant
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Keep On Lying
Mind Mischief
Alter Ego
It Is Not Meant To Be
Half Full Glass Of Wine
Encore:
Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control

tameimpala

*pics by Jacquelyn Taylor

Grizzly Bear at L’Olympia in Montreal

September 29, 2012

23 September 2012

Warp Records recording artist and indie-rock darlings Grizzly Bear, returned to Montreal after five years to close out the POP Montreal Festival in style, and played to a jam-crammed and delighted crowd at The Olympia Theatre. Showcasing tracks from their brand new album Shields, interspersed with hits from their acclaimed earlier work, the Brooklyn quartet revealed why they are one of the most revered bands in the “indie” world – playing their challenging compositions with ease, switching instruments mid-song when needed, and delivering strong and near pitch-perfect vocal performances throughout.

Their stage show was simple yet effective – the band set up in a line on stage and with the help of excellent lighting as a backdrop (18 jellyfish-like lanterns flashing and moving in sync with the music), they created a fitting mood for the duration of their hour-long set.

As they began with “Speak in Rounds” from Shields, I was immediately pulled in, but started having a strange sensation that it sounded almost too good, that there would be no variation from recorded material to live performance, and that I could simply close my eyes and not be able to tell the difference between the two. However, as the lanterns slowly rose from the subterranean depths of the murky sea, and they played Shields opener “Sleeping Ute”, varying the tempo a bit and adding an extra vocal hook I began to truly get sucked in, and by the time they started “Yet Again”, I was one of the converts, not caring that I was a little too far back from the stage than I liked and couldn’t quite feel the sound reverberating through my body. It didn’t matter, Grizzly Bear came to perform and did so like true professionals.

Highlights for me included “Shift”, which was perfectly rendered live, “Foreground”, which with the help of sombre lighting was incredibly powerful, “While You Wait For The Others”, and “Ready, Able”, which are two of my faves from “Veckatimest”, “Gun-Shy”, which the more I listen to is becoming a fave on Shields, and of course the closing track “Sun in Your Eyes“, an eight-minute opus that has hints of theatre and prog and is arguably the band’s best example to date of their overall sound. Just great.

As I’ve said before here on INAUDIBLE, any time a Warp Records artist comes to play in your town, you are wise not to miss them, because you can be assured it’s gonna be tops. Check out Shields if you haven’t yet, as it will surely be on countless end of year lists, including mine. Peace.

SET LIST
1. Speak in Rounds
2. Adelma
3. Sleeping Ute
4. Cheerleader
5. Lullabye
6. Yet Again
7. Little Brother
8. Shift
9. Gun-Shy
10. Ready, Able
11. A Simple Answer
12. Foreground
13. While You Wait For The Others
14. Two Weeks
15. Half Gate
16. Sun In Your Eyes
–Encore–
17. Knife
18. On A Neck, On A Spit

* photo courtesy of Mateusz Garbulinski (from their show at Massey Hall in Toronto)

Mayer Hawthorne at Corona Theatre

May 27, 2012

26 May 2012

Mayer Hawthorne and The County played to a full house at The Corona Theatre in Montreal last night and did not disappoint, bringing their Motown swagger and good times great oldies vibe. Hawthorne was decked out in a red tux (in solidarity with la CLASSE?) and Air Jordans and showcased songs from his latest album How Do You Do? and his breakout record A Strange Arrangement.

The Hawth does such an amazing job of getting the crowd involved with singalongs, call-and-response exchanges, and choreographed hand motions, that it’s impossible not to get caught up in the music. Critics call him a “throwback” artist, which some say is a schtick or comes off as phony, but I find it genuine and authentic – rather than simply copying singers of old, Hawthorne’s music can be seen as an homage, using Motown and soul as inspiration for reviving the craft of live performance. Perhaps the fact that he grew up in the Detroit area adds credence to his music, but the bottom line is that Hawthorne wants to put on a “show” and truly entertain, and entertain us he did. He had a J-Dilla interlude and a Hall & Oates breakdown for Christ’s sake! He let us take photos of him holding a bouquet of flowers and took a picture of us for his Twitter account, and then politely asked everyone to put our cameras away and “pretend” we were at a show enjoying it in “real time”. We danced non stop, I spilt beer on some girl and her chum wanted to beat me up for a split second before remembering he was in a happy place. The vibes were too good for anyone to stay mad for long.

Mayer Hawthorne is a gentleman and the ladies clearly love him. His set was tight, he hit all of his notes with ease and his backing band was perfect. My only critique is the same one I made when I first saw him in Toronto in 2009 – he needs horns and two large black ladies doing back up vocals! Other than that, a helluva live show and a great weekend. Peace.

*photo by Jacquelyn Taylor*

Tanlines at Il Motore in Montreal

April 22, 2012

16 April 2012

Brooklyn-based duo, Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm aka Tanlines, stopped by Il Motore this week and showcased songs from their debut full-length, Mixed Emotions. The morning of the show I had decided I wasn’t going to go, as it was Monday, and I was still recovering from the weekend and had a shit ton of work to do – but at the last minute I changed my mind and made it to Il Motore just as they were getting ready to go on, and I’m glad I did, because it was a great show.

The crowd was small but lively, dancing around and getting swept into the vocals by Cohen and the pounding bass and stand-up drumming by Emm. Emm made quirky comments about the duo’s love for Canada in between each song, and they seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage. Mixed Emotions is a slow burn of an album, but incredibly infectious once the melodies get stuck in your head. Like Cut Copy and Hot Chip before them, Tanlines work the 80’s aesthetic, pulling influence from Peter Gabriel, New Order, The Police and Phil Collins, and mixing it with tribal rhythms and tropicália flourishes.

Mixed Emotions has received mixed reviews across the blogosphere, some reviewers claiming they wished it was dancier, others that they had hoped the duo would have pushed their sound further, while others say its mix of sun, fun and melancholy falls flat overall. And a writer for the Mirror called their music something like “indie rock meets The Lion King”. But for this reviewer, Tanlines full-length balances its emotions perfectly. “Not the Same” is a powerful song that aims for the gut and succeeds, while banger “Real Life” is a near flawless ‘fun’ track designed to get you dancing. I think the album plays out well from start to finish, and gets better with successive listens, as the vocal melodies begin to glue themselves to your brain and you find you just want to keep listening again and again.

A great Monday night show and one of my favourite albums of the year thus far. Check it.

Album highlights: “Real Life”, “Abby”, “Not the Same

The Besnard Lakes + Suuns at Lee’s Palace

February 9, 2011

It was a Montreal takeover at Lee’s on Saturday January 29th, as rockers The Besnard Lakes and emerging proggers Suuns played Toronto. It was a perfect storm of music and mayhem as several Aquarians (including myself) all convened at the show to conclude a week long celebration of birthdays. We missed opening act Valleys, but arrived just in time for Suuns, whose album Zeroes QC has been on heavy rotation on my stereo as of late. They played a tight set but I found the sound was a bit muddied, the bass too low in the mix, and the keyboards too loud, as if the sound guys had everything tweaked just right for the Besnards and didn’t want to touch the board for Suuns. Still, the young band were great and I look forward to seeing them again soon.

Sound problems were definitely not an issue for The Besnard Lakes, who played an amazing set, showcasing their 2010 release The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night. Halfway through their set, fuelled by Jameson and Redbull, I too began to think I was the roaring night and started to veer off into the world of savagery. Nevertheless, the show still absolutely rocked. Rich White’s guitar was tight and loud, and Jace Lasek’s voice was immaculate, as was Olga Goreas’ driving bass. The Besnard Lakes are one of the best live bands around, and overall you couldn’t ask for a better night of MTL rock and roll at Lee’s. Right, Stew?

*photos courtesy of Mateusz Garbulinski

Sufjan Stevens at Massey Hall in Toronto

October 19, 2010

13 October 2010

Sufjan Stevens played the venerable Massey Hall in Toronto on Wednesday and skillfully showcased material from his brand new album The Age of Adz. Toronto was his second stop in a 23 city North American tour, that finds Sufjan and his band playing in beautiful historic venues across the United States. The tour will then move on to Australia and Europe at the start of 2011.

And what a spectacle it was. Flanked by two drummers, bass, guitar, keyboards, synths, horns, and two back-up singers/dancers (11 people in all on stage), Sufjan and his band held me in rapture from the opening moments of the 12 minute epic “All Delighted People”. Yet, it wasn’t until they played “Too Much” from The Age of Adz, that I became fully immersed.

The new material from Adz is above and beyond anything he has produced thus far, mixing folk, electronica, pop, cinematic orchestra and indie rock, and filtering it all through the sensibilities of a Broadway musical. So then for me, everything he played off of Adz was an immersive and amazing adventure in live music. In short, the new stuff kicks ass — it is inspiring, off kilter, and very emotional. The show was backdropped with an impressive visual performance as well, finding inspiration and using artwork from eccentric American artist Royal Robertson.

The Age of Adz is a brilliant and challenging album. Its production value is what makes it a challenge, as it’ll take a few listens for you to take it all in, but what makes it brilliant is that by the second listen, you’ll already find the melodies glued to your brain. You’ll wake up humming the chorus to “I Walked” and end up singing the coda of “Vesuvius” in the shower. The repetitive nature of the lyrics and the simple melodies hidden under the surface makes Adz a highly accessible album, yet some may still find it too “electronic” or “layered” for their tastes, but with repeat listens it is quite rewarding…

The album climaxes with the 25-minute “Impossible Soul”, which Sufjan dubbed a “love cycle”, as there’s 5 different movements within the song. And yes, they played it live, and barely missed a beat. “Impossible Soul” is my favourite song of the year, as it embraces and exploits practically every genre of the last 50 years — from 60’s rock to Disney-esque orchestra to hip-hop to techno to simple folk. What other song features a raunchy guitar solo, an inspirational sing-a-long, and some kick ass autotune? And more importantly, what other song smashes all these genres together and does it so effectively? I’ve yet to find any other. And the fact that they pulled it off so well live was absolutely fantastic. I was singing along word for word as Sufjan started up a little dance party on the stage.

Those who showed up actually expecting him to play old songs from Illinois and Michigan, when he had just released two albums of new material, seemed a bit disappointed to have to sit through an hour and a half of unfamiliar material, yet for me (who had Adz in my possession the minute of its digital release) it was hands down the best live show of the year.

*photos courtesy of Mateusz Garbulinski

SET LIST
1. All Delighted People
2. Heirloom
3. Too Much
4. Futile Devices
5. The Age Of Adz
6. I Walked
7. Now That I’m Older
8. Vesuvius
9. Get Real Get Right
10. Enchanting Ghost
11. The Owl and The Tanager
12. Impossible Soul
13. Chicago
–Encore–
14. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
15. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

Foals at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

October 2, 2010

27 September 2010

UK indie rockers, Foals, returned to Lee’s Palace on Monday in support of their sophomore release Total Life Forever and played to a sold out crowd. The band got off to a moody start with a somewhat choppy version of “Miami”, as it seemed to take frontman Yannis Philipakkis a couple tracks to get into the mood of the set. Also, guitarist Jimmy Smith suffered from constant technical difficulties with his guitar, which halted the momentum of the show on quite a few occasions. Still, Foals blasted through tracks off of Total Life Forever and Antidotes to the crowd’s delight. The crowd danced and screamed and sang along, reaching frenzy during the kick in “Spanish Sahara”.

I thought it was a good show, but wasn’t as impressed as I was after their first stop at Lee’s in the spring of 2008. And I’ll tell you why: firstly, they did not play “Black Gold”, which is my favourite song off of their new album, and arguably the strongest song they have written to date. Secondly, I found the show to go completely against everything the band has claimed they have become (more mature, dynamic, and understated) since the release of Antidotes. At this show, Yannis acted like a bit of a rockstar, kicking over mic stands and beer bottles, running into the crowd with his “wireless” guitar, jumping on the bar and (accidentally) smashing a light. Sure, it’s all good showmanship, but there was something in his overall manner and attitude that took away from the authenticity of it all. To me, it seemed like he would’ve rather been somewhere else. The rest of the band fulfilled their duties well, bass and drums as tight as ever, and keyboard dude still just as superfluous.

Lastly, and perhaps this is what irked me the most, was that instead of nurturing this new maturity and dynamism on stage, their live show was overly loud, prone to drawn-out jams, and at times down right sloppy. I had expected their live performance would have gotten tighter and stronger since their first trip across the pond, but instead they relied on older material and amplifier volume to fill in the blanks and in the end it fell flat. Nevertheless, Total Life Forever will still be up there on my end of year list and it was a good show, but Foals still have some growing up to do.

Peace.

POLVO at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

August 14, 2010

13 August 2010

Post rock legends, POLVO, played a tight set at Lee’s Palace on Friday night in Toronto, giving aging fanboys one last chance to get their rocks off to the twisted tunings and weirdo time signatures that made Polvo revered and adored in the mid-nineties. Polvo called it quits in 1998 after the release of their sixth album Shapes, but returned last year with the excellent In Prism, and luckily Toronto was one of the stops on their brief summer tour with Versus.

On paper this line-up is my high school wet dream: Polvo and Versus playing together! It seemed too good to be true . . . and in the end, it was. Versus’ drummer, Ed Baluyut, was a no-show because his wife had a baby, so the drummer for opening band Soft Copy filled in. Under the circumstances, he did a great job, but was obviously hesitant. They managed to play hits “Blade of Grass”, “River” and “Be-9” from The Stars are Insane, which ended up sounding pretty good, but overall it just wasn’t how I imagined it.

Polvo hit the stage next and were amazingly tight. Ridiculously tight. Hard to explain how good they were. They opened with an extended version of “Fast Canoe” that varied from the original but sounded fantastic. They debuted a new song, and played “The Pedlar”, “Right the Relation” and “Beggars Bowl” off of In Prism, “Thermal Treasure”, “Lazy Comet”, and “My Kimono” from Today’s Active Lifestyles, “Bombs that Fall from your Eyes” from This Eclipse, “Feather of Forgiveness” from Exploded Drawing, “Enemy Insects” from Shapes and other hits. In short, it was a great show. You really couldn’t complain.

But overall it made me feel strange. As if I shouldn’t be allowed to see Polvo again after all these years. They are a memory and should stay that way. All these reunion shows over the last few years have us churning up nostalgia in massive quantities, watching older versions of the heroes of our youth trying to relive the days of their youth — and even though it’s wonderful to be able to see your favourite band again, it’s just never quite the same.

Ian Cohen’s review on Pitchfork of The Suburbs by Arcade Fire says that the main focus of their new album is on the “quiet desperation borne of compounding the pain of wasting your time as an adult by romanticizing the wasted time of your youth.” There is something very profound in this quote that resonates with me, and my experience of seeing a decade older Polvo blast out the hits made me think of this. You see, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, a goddamn sap, I love to stir up old feelings that I can’t quite comprehend anymore, love to secretly get weepy over times gone by — but now as I’m figuring out how to step confidently into my early thirties, I feel it’s time to leave this old stuff behind, it’s time only for constant steps forward and further and onward.

Sure, it’s nice to go back every now and again, but that was it for me. The clincher. Seeing Polvo and Versus was the culmination of the very end of my youth. There. It is done. I am a motherfucking adult. Finally.

Thank you Polvo and Versus for helping me affirm this once and for all.