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Thursday, July 1st, 2004

Won't U Please Be Nice

An interesting crowd at the Nellie McKay show last night. While not sold out, it was a decent-sized crowd with more than a few folks from an higher age bracket than I usually rub elbows with. Which was nice, because they were quieter and better behaved than the usual punters. I got there a little early so I did as everyone else had done and just sat down on the floor. Remind me to put those pants in the laundry.

Local opener Jill Barber did a nice set of folkish-pop tunes, sounding not unlike a cross between Jewel and Sarah Harmer. Take the honeyed voice and vocal inflections of the former (less the yodeling) and the phrasing and songwriting style of the latter, less the edge acquired from years fronting a rock band, and you’re in the ballpark. I would have preferred a little more variety in the material, but it was pretty decent stuff all-around.

I had wondered how a single girl at a piano was going to translate onstage in a club the size of Lee’s Palace, and was even more concerned after seeing the ghetto setup they’d laid out for her – a cafeteria-style chair in front of a Yamaha digital piano set at stage right. That’s it. Now I wasn’t necessarily expecting a glossy black baby grand, but this was sort of underwhelming. Still, if the performer doesn’t care, I guess I shouldn’t either. Now most reviews I’d read indicated that Nellie had a thing for dressing up 50s-housewife style, in big retro skirts and nutty DIY hair-dos and such – looks like she’s gotten past that, at least for last night. She took the stage looking quite elegant in a Chinese dress with her hair up, and launched into material from Get Away From Me. I’d also been led to expect that she’d be brassy and sassy, as much stand-up comic as musician, but instead she seemed quiet and a little befuddled at the start, constantly referencing a lyrics sheet and keeping the between-song banter to an apologetic minimum. She warmed up and got chattier as the set continued, and was indeed as funny as I’d hoped though it was less in the stand-up style than the stream-of-consciouness babblings of a really clever, somewhat scatterbrained young girl – which is exactly what it was. And that was more enjoyable, I think.

Hearing the songs performed live solo on piano (as opposed to the more orchestrated album versions) with all the lyrical and musical ad-libs really pointed out how talented a performer she is. Again, it’s a shame that she wasn’t on a real piano as that would have really kicked the musical presentation up a notch. It was a little disconcerting to have her banging away on the keyboard right in front of me, yet the only sound was coming from the PA speakers on either side of the club. Also, the parts of “The Dog Song” where she bangs on the piano just didn’t work on a plastic keyboard. The crowd ate it all up, though, calling her out for two encores that I’m not entirely sure she was prepared for. I have been quite enjoying her album, but the live show is, as people have said, a lot more fun. Photos here.

Some bad news for people excited about the Metric show July 14 at the Mod Club – tickets aren’t available to the hoi polloi. The only way to get in is to listen to CFNY (that’s Edge 102.1 for those of you under 20 or so) and win tickets. But there is a consolation – if you can’t endure the agony of listening to commercial radio, you can catch frontwoman Emily Haines do a solo acoustic show at the El Mocambo on July 24.

The Magnetic Fields come to town and the local press is all agog. Interviews from eye, NOW, The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, The Globe & Mail (thanks Carl) and The Detroit Free Press (not really local but whatever).

The new Velvet Crush album Stereo Blues has been schedule for an August 10 wide release. Or you can do as I did and order it from Parasol right now and have it over a month early. I haven’t spun it too much yet, but it’s definitely harder than Soft Sounds, maybe a little too much on the rock. More towards Heavy Changes than Teenage Symphonies or Free Expression, which is definitely where they’re at their best.

Obviously I’m very excited about the Wilco show at the Mod Club on August 3. The place is small – I think smaller than Lee’s, even – and while I had feared I’d never get a chance to take pictures of my favourite band (on account of them playing venues that are too big), now I’ll get to shoot them in a hall with great sightlines and lighting. Fantastic. Tickets are gonna go fast, though – after all, this is a band whose latest album just debuted on the Billboard charts at #8. Also, Hold My Life has the cover of The Wilco Book out November 15.

Happy Canada Day! I’m celebrating my four-day long weekend with a whole lot of sleeping, kinda like this morning. Don’t know when the last time I slept in till 11 was, but damnation I should do it more often. It looks like glorious weather all weekend so I will try to spend as much of it outdoors as possible, probably sitting in parks and reading or something. Spider-Man 2 will almost certainly be happening as well. God knows I can use a break – it may have just been a three-day week, but work was been insanely busy and promises to continue to be so when I go back on Monday. Good thing I’m on vacation starting next Friday – going out west for a week! I’ll be in Vancouver, Victoria and hopefully Seattle at various points throughout my trip, and really have no plans. Recommendations on what I see and do while out there?

np – Lambchop / Aw, C’mon

By : Frank Yang at 12:17 pm
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. mike says:

    Great pics of Nellie! [I wanted to use my flash, but from where I was standing at the show, Nellie was practically looking in my direction every time she looked up from her keyboard and I didn’t want to blind her.]

  2. Gary Campbell says:

    You can also be put in the contest for Metric tickets by registering at the Edge 102 web site http://…/ meaning that you don’t have to listen to any commercial rock. :)

  3. Carl says:

    There’s also a Stephin Merritt interview in the Globe and Mail, today, for the record:

    http://…/

  4. Justin says:

    If you get to Seattle, be sure to check out the Elliott Bay Book Company.

  5. NA says:

    Don’t know when you’ll be in Vancouver but there seems to be lots of shows playing that week: Sonic Youth play the Commodore (great venue) July 13, Polyphonic Spree, Gomez and the Thrills play on the 16th. AC Newman is at Richard’s on the 17th, and the Folk Festival is running July 16th -18th at Jericho Beach (if you go for that kind of thing). There’s lots more going on. Check out: http://www.straight.com/ (site is down now but should be back shortly).