Posts Tagged ‘concert’

Grimes at Cabaret du Mile End in Montreal

April 7, 2012

31 March 2012

It-girl Claire Boucher aka Grimes, finished up her first headlining tour in the city where it all began, playing to a sold out crowd at Cabaret du Mile End. She started the show solo on stage, twiddling knobs and building loops of voice and synth to excellent effect, yet it wasn’t until openers Born Gold joined her on stage to help flesh out her sound that the show really started to cook. The concert showcased tracks from her critically acclaimed new album Visions as well as a few older songs, like the hypnotic “Vanessa”. Grimes was particularly cute and awkward on stage, seeming a bit nervous and shy, continually asking the sound guy to “turn down the lights” and “turn up the music”.

And once the lights went down and the sound went up Grimes seemed much more in her element, letting her inhibitions go and her voice soar. And for the most part, she totally had the vocal chops live, although I did notice some voice loops assisting her once in awhile, most notably during the high parts of “Be a Body”. Production wise I was very impressed as the songs took on a grittier, darker vibe than they have on the album. The bass thumped hard, the snare pops rattled, and the synths coalesced into an analogue swirl of sound indebted to the work of Aphex. In sum, it was a great show, and I think she should seriously consider having Born Gold accompany her on the next tour, because I’m unsure as to whether the show would have had the same sense of freshness and urgency if they weren’t helping propel her sound farther and louder.

Still, in my opinion, Grimes should be playing at this year’s Mutek, as she seems to be on the cusp of a whole new wave of young electronic artists further pushing the boundaries of genre and technology. I digs.

Best track: “Life After Death

Local Natives at The Mod Club in Toronto

October 22, 2010

19 October 2010

L.A. scenesters Local Natives played their Toronto debut to a sold out crowd at The Mod Club this Tuesday, and wowed with strong vocals and a tight live performance. The young band was brimming with energy and enthusiasm as they showcased tracks off of their critically-acclaimed album, Gorilla Manor.

The crowd sang and chanted along with the band, making it feel as if Local Natives were seasoned veterans in the scene, rather than rising stars on their first headlining tour. 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, Nash and Young — which is no small feat.

The band emitted an air of subtle class on stage, void of rock star status, letting the music speak for them, which I found very refreshing. Highlights for me were “Wide Eyes” and “Who Knows Who Cares” (which the entire crowd sang along with), their version of the Talking Heads hit “Warning Sign”, “Cards and Quarters”, and “Sun Hands”, which they played as their encore and brought the crowd to a frenzy.

I almost didn’t go to this show due to an early morning, yet I was super glad I did, as it ended up being one of the best live shows I’ve seen this year, and at the same time reminded me how much I love Gorilla Manor. I’ve been listening to the album every day since the show, and have fallen in love with it all over again.

Funny concert moment: Singer-keyboardist Kelcey Ayer saying: “It’s great to be here in Vancouver!” and then quickly realizing his mistake and running red-faced off the stage . . . we’ll let it slide this time since his voice sounded so damn good during “Cubism Dream”.

Local Natives are definitely a band to watch because they are only going to get bigger and better. Awesome album and amazing show. Check ’em if you’ve yet to do so…

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

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
14. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
15. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

Mount Kimbie at The Drake Underground

October 2, 2010

30 September 2010

Dom Maker and Kai Campos, better known as Mount Kimbie, made their Toronto debut at the Drake Underground this Thursday night and did not disappoint. The young UK duo played a live set free of laptops, using a Native Instruments sampler, a Roland SP-555, and a KORG Kaoss pad, as well as, real guitar, synth and drums, they managed to create an interesting and varied live version of their clipped paced dubstep sound. Tracks like “Carbonated”, “Field” and “Ode to Bear” sounded great live, with tweaked samples, live instrumentation, additional beats, and deep bass. The opening seconds of “Maybes” sounded downright cavernous in the dark and packed Drake Underground, and the vocal samples swirled and panned around the room. The live version of “William” featured Dom singing the muted lyrics with his thick British accent, which I thought was a nice touch. Although their set was relatively short, and perhaps at times just a bit too low on the bpms for the ravenous crowd, it was great to see these guys play live in a small venue. Nice stuff.

Local hero mymanhenri got the show going, playing great tracks by all our faves including FlyLo, Floating Points, and Onra, who will also be making his Toronto debut at the Drake Underground on Oct 10th. Another one you should not miss. Check it.

The xx at The Phoenix in Toronto

April 5, 2010

4 April 2010

London trio the xx returned to Toronto for their first headlining show on Easter Sunday and delighted the crowd with an intimate and understated live show. Beginning the set with moody album opener “Intro”, the band was shrouded behind a white curtain and their silhouettes were cleverly illumined against the scrim. As the track ended, the curtain dropped revealing the giant X (that has become their hipster branding) and their trademark light boxes lit up in the centre of the stage. They immediately followed with “Crystalised” and had the crowd in melancholic rapture. The overall mood was dark and big props have to go out to their lighting team who deftly added excellent atmosphere to the band’s timid and shoegazey stage presence.

Guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim stood on either end of the stage, while beatmaker Jamie Smith worked the drum pads behind them. At times the percussion seemed a bit muted, but the bass drops were deep and rattled appropriately. Croft’s guitar work was a bit rusty, perhaps still adjusting to the absence of rhythm guitarist Baria Qureshi, but I enjoyed the very live feel of it all — a young band on their first big tour, exploring the capabilities and further possibilities of their sound in a live setting. They played every song off their debut album and one cover by UK artist Kyla called “Do You Mind”, which featured Smith manipulating the vocals to great effect and vigorously playing a snare and floor tom during the song’s kick. The additon of real drums is one thing the three-piece will surely realize as a necessary expansion for live gigs, but overall, the xx are a young band with loads of potential and subtle class. I dug it.

Sweden duo jj, on the other hand, played a ridiculous set of their Pitchfork lauded, pot leaf and blood stained album covered, cheese pop garbage, to a very bored and befuddled crowd. jj are sure to fade into indie-rock obscurity just as soon as Pitchfork finds another crappy band they decide to make popular for no reason other than the fact that they can. The singer Elin Kastlander does have a very nice voice, but it could do nothing to save their set from totally sucking. The guy was air-guitaring on stage instead of actually playing the real one next to him. Haha. So bad.

We missed Nosaj because he went on so early, but I have seen him twiddle his knobs before. Next time he comes back, he better bring his visual accompaniment with him. But overall, yes, twas a great night. I’m out.

Beach House at the Opera House in Toronto

March 31, 2010

30 March 2010

Beach House played to a sold out crowd at The Opera House in Toronto on Tuesday night and lulled us with hits from their newest album, Teen Dream. The best word to describe the capacity crowd would be sedate — they stood, unmoving, in typical unenthused Toronto fashion, as the duo with the addition of a live drummer, faithfully rendered their songs live. With eyes closed it was close to impossible to tell the difference between live show and recording, which isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes the joy of a concert is seeing the band jam out a little and reveal new twists and extended codas to favourite songs. Nevertheless, Victoria Legrand’s voice is absolutely stunning live — powerful and assured, yet restrained. I’m sure she can just belt it out if she really wanted to, and it would’ve been nice to hear a bit more of her vocal chops live.

I guess what I’m saying is I felt a bit disappointed, even though the show was totally great. They played just about every song off the new album, plus my personal fave, “Gila” off Devotion, but it simply wasn’t mind blowing. Perhaps, I was expecting too much from a band that writes quiet and sparse pop songs, but still . . . I dunno, maybe the blasé crowd also had something to do with it, or the fact that the sound guy needed to turn up the guitar a bit, or maybe I’m just a curmudgeonly sonofabitch myself, but overall I was underwhelmed.

Our generation’s two greatest forms of entertainment, films and concerts, are supposed to be engaging, unforgettable, thought-provoking, and reassuringly visceral collective experiences that change us, even if only a smidgen. And the best ones do in fact do this. Before the show I completely expected Beach House to be one of these “best ones” — where the crowd leaves the show slightly high, smiling, elevated beyond the normality of life and work and all the stupid stresses that come about in our personal day to day — but unfortunately all I wanted to do after the show was head to the bar for another drink.

Yet, as my friend Trish said as I complained to her about the lackluster crowd, good vibes are infectious, and I guess mine just weren’t reverberating loudly enough last night. Wow. Maybe that one too many drink I had after the show is also inflecting my opinion here. Who knows? I still love the album and the band, but I probably won’t pay 30 bucks to someone on Craigslist for a Beach House ticket again.

Good vibes to you all. Haha.

Tortoise at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

February 20, 2010

18 February 2010

Post-rock darlings Tortoise played to a packed house at Lee’s Palace on Thursday night in Toronto and effortlessly showed the crowd why they are one of the best bands in the business. Playing choice tracks from their extensive repertoire, they had us hanging on every note, synth line, and cymbal crash — and I gotta say, the crowd at Lee’s was one of the most agreeable Toronto audiences I’ve experienced in recent memory. Strangers cheered and slapped each other five, all of us momentarily morphing into a contented collective that was simply enraptured by Tortoise’s good vibes.

Tortoise are professional musicians that love what they do, and it’s wonderfully apparent on stage, as they’re grooving and smiling and rocking out a fabulously tight set. With two drum kits up front, and synths, Vibraphone, guitars, and an electronic xylophone set up around them, the quintet played tracks from their latest release “Beacons of Ancestorship”, and fed the crowd hits from “TNT” and “Standards”. They came out for two encores and ended with one of my all time faves, “Glass Museum”. It was an emotional, nostalgic, and mature set that never failed to impress. Simply put, you can’t go wrong seeing these guys.

Tortoise and I have a long history together. I have been with them since the beginning. I’ve seen them play live 7 or 8 times. I saw them at The Magic Stick in Detroit for their “Millions Now Living” tour way back when, where they showed up on stage silent like automatons with little headlamps and played “Djed” in its entirety. Jeff Parker wasn’t even with them yet. And now over a decade later, they’ve only gotten tighter and classier at their craft, and it’s amazing that at the same time they remind me of good times and great memories from the past, they’re also launching me into this new and bright decade. Love ’em.


Nosaj Thing at Wrongbar in Toronto

August 31, 2009


30 August 2009

Jason Chung aka Nosaj Thing made his Toronto debut last night at Wrongbar. He delivered a tight set filled with fractured beats, airy synths, and knob twiddles aplenty. The show was really quite good, so it’s a shame that the crowd was a sparse group of head-bobbers, seemingly too hungover from the weekend to move more than their necks. His set was definitely dance worthy, and so on behalf of the city of Toronto I apologize to you Nosaj Thing, please don’t get the wrong impression of Canada, we really do know how to throw down, you just caught us at a bad time. Come back and we’ll make it up to you, I swear. I could understand if he didn’t want to come back, when barely 40 people showed and nobody even moved to his music – he on the other hand, was going wild on stage, groovin to the beat, as he modulated and tweaked cuts from his recent release “Drift”.

Overall, it was an impressive outing from this young talent, however, I felt the sound at Wrongbar was kinda flat and did not bump as much as it should. Seeing Flying Lotus earlier this summer has ruined any chance for another artist in the glitch-hop scene to play a better show than his off-the-hook performance at Tattoo, but with a little more time and practice, Nosaj will be right up there with him. If you haven’t heard “Drift” yet, check it out. It’s available through Alpha Pup Records. I’m out.


Flying Lotus at Tattoo Rock Parlour in Toronto

July 10, 2009


9 July 2009

Warp Records budding superstar Flying Lotus (nee Steven Ellison) dropped his cyber-slick sounds on a crunked and over-capacity crowd last night in Toronto. And hot damn was it ever good. We walked in to opener mymanhenri playing Dilla and Doom and setting the mood just right. FlyLo hit the stage next and within seconds sized-up the crowd he had in front of him. “These peeps ain’t just drunk, they’re all super fucking baked,” was no doubt his assessment, because he immediately pressed the “drug” button on his groove box and the bass just cooked the crowd and made us scream and jump and grin and shake our booties. It was infectious and trippy, full of reverb and snare pops and bad ass bass rumbles and soul.

I gotta admit the sound system at Tattoo is pretty awesome and FlyLo’s set was so crisp it sparkled. There was even a crowd surfer at one point. I think Flying Lotus was genuinely amazed at how gonzo the crowd was going all around him. He was smiling and laughing the whole set and brought the energy and rhythm to an absolutely feverish pitch. He crescendoed with some subtle Michael Jackson nods from “Off the Wall” that sounded as fresh as ever under his care. A fitting farewell to the King of Pop and a musical highlight of the year for mmmlele.

Ahh…wait for it…mazing.

Jay Reatard Doesn’t Really Act Like One

July 1, 2009
29 June 2009 - The Mod Club (Toronto)

29 June 2009 - The Mod Club (Toronto)

Anyone who likes Jay Reatard already knows all about his ‘legendary’ Silver Dollar show in Toronto last spring. If you’ve never seen it, peep it below from 1:30 onwards. Rock and roll!

Then he came back to town in the fall for a Fred Perry sponsored show at Wrongbar and stormed off the stage after a pedal malfunktion. Watch it too, it’s funny.

So when me and my friend Stew got tickets for his show at the Mod Club we were expecting some rock n roll smackdown dramatics with spit and violence and pretension and blood. Unfortunately for us, there was nothing but a little ego – nevertheless, flying vee’d Jay Reatard, afro’d bass Steve Pope and drummer Billy Hayes still tore it up with attitude and style. They played it safe and I loved it anyway. ‘Cause in the end It was still balls out sludge rock with tight musicianship the entire set from the trio. At one point, as I slammed back a Corona, they looked like the animated criminals from the cartoon “Superjail”. Freaky and Southern. Kinda sweaty and fat. But I’m sure Reatard still gets retarded with the ladies, especially after they see him jump up on a green gear box at the end of his sets and wail out! I definitely thought their was some sex to him, but in a Jon Spencer kinda way. Not sure if I’d buy the whole package . . . but you can bet yer bony ass I dug the head-banging, short but sweet, fuck you you piece of shit set the band delivered this time around in the T-drizzle. Even if the crowd stayed away…