Sunday, October 24th, 2004
The Delgados are one of those bands I’ve always liked – I go back to the Peloton days – and yet I’ve always been oddly dispassionate about them. As much as I like their records, they’ve always fallen just short of really grabbing hold of me and shaking like an English nanny. Maybe the bombast of The Great Eastern and Hate were just a little to much for me to really take – just a little too dramatic and over the top. That’s why their latest, Universal Audio, is such pleasant surprise. By stripping away a lot of the sonic overload that characterized their sound and instead putting the energy into the songs and arrangements, they’ve made what for my money is their best album yet.
And so, Saturday night was spent at the Toronto stop of their just-underway Universal Audio tour at Lee’s Palace. They’ve always had a habit of coming through town twice per album, and I usually make it to the first show – like last night. Opening things up was Eric Bachmann, aka Crooked Fingers. Although Bachmann has been an indie rock icon of sorts for years, going back to his days with Archers Of Loaf, this was my very first time being exposed to any of his music (seriously) – and I was impressed. Performing solo and accompanied only by guitar or sampler, Bachmann played the role of downbeat troubadour with a set of beautifully glum songs, at times evoking a less-whacked out Tom Waits. At the end of his 45-minute set, he mentioned that he’d be back with a full band in March after their next album is released.
In keeping with their more stripped-down aesthetic, The Delgados were touring with a somewhat smaller lineup this time – gone were the string section that accompanied them for their last two tours, replaced with two utility players with great banks of keyboards for filling out the sound. They seemed in good spirits, gamely putting up with various Scottish-themed hollers from the audience throughout the night. Bassist Stewart Henderson, who was celebrating his birthday last night, was particularly entertaining shouting back at the audience in his mostly incomprehensible Scottish brogue. I also noticed that Emma is possibly the only person in the world small enough to make a Telecaster look like a huge guitar. I was a little disappointed that Universal Audio had about an equal share of the setlist as the two previous releases since I’m especially keen on the new record (as I’ve already said) and I’ve heard the older material live a number of times already, but when they nailed the older material like they did for “No Danger” in the encore, it’s hard to complain. Also a shame was the relatively short set – even though it was an hour and a half, the hard curfew of 10:00 (they double-booked the venue) made it feel prematurely cut off. Still, all in all, a very solid show from a band that gets better every time I see them. The fact that I’m enjoying their albums and shows more and more each time around would bode well for the future, I think.
Not too many photos this time as about halfway through the set, Alun requested the stage lights be dimmed and dimmed they were. After that, even from right up front they were barely more than red-outlined silhouettes. But before then, I snapped these shots.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a review of the benefit concert for Soul Asylum bassist Karl Meuller, which went off on Friday. One of the highlights was the reunion of 2/3 of Husker Du, with Bob Mould and Grant Hart sharing a stage for the first time in 16 years to perform “Hardly Getting Over It” and “Never Talking to You Again” – could no one have called Greg Norton and made it a full-on reunion? Regardless, the show sounds like it was a blast and I have full-on envy for anyone who was there. Bob Mould blogs about the reunion show but doesn’t make particular mention about playing with Grant again. Hmm…
Okay, those clips of Ashlee Simpson’s performance on Saturday Night Live last night are too funny – if you missed it (which I did, I admit), the recording she was lip synching to stopped playing just as they started the song, leaving her dumbfounded. So she does a little Elfin jig, storms offstage and then blames her band for “playing the wrong song” during the show’s closing. LAME. For full commentary and links (read the comments section), visit Stereogum – your one-stop manufactured pop diva humiliation shop. Check her out in the clips from the show closing – man, she is one ugly chick.
np – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists / Shake The Sheets