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Thursday, April 28th, 2005

Us Kids Know

The buzz event of this week has been Arcade Fire’s three-night stand at the Danforth Music Hall. It’s like, “Which night are you going?” has become a perfectly acceptable conversation opener around the water cooler or McDonalds drive-thru. Though last night’s show was the first announced and first to sell out, Tuesday’s show was the first to happen, though it was the last of the three to be announced and obviously attended only by layabouts and lollygaggers who weren’t keen enough to get tickets to last night’s show. Meaning what? I do not know.

Arriving about 10 minutes before doors, the queue which stretched around the block thankfully moved quickly enough for us to get decent seats about 2/3 of the way back. We got settled in just in time to see the first opener – local boy Owen Pallett, aka Final Fantasy. When someone asks many years from now what the most important technological advance in music perfomance was in the first part of the 21st century, the answer will probably be the looper pedal. I’ve seen a number of performers use those doodads masterfully, and Final Fantasy is no exception. Stacking layers of violin on top of one another to create a mini symphony and singing over top, Pallett played a short but mesmerizing set of lovely chamber pop songs, closing off wht guests Jeremy and Regine from the Arcade Fire and Gentleman Reg helping out on a cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”. Final Fantasy has been quite the buzz around town for a while now but this was my first time taking in the experience, and I get what everyone is going on about.

Next up was Montreal’s Wolf Parade, who had the dubious distinction of being the most conventional-sounding act on the bill. With Arcade Fire’s Tim Kingsbury pinch-hitting on bass and guitar for the shorthanded band, I actually started off being rather annoyed by them but was surprised to find myself won over with each subsequent song. Reminiscent of The Walkmen or Franz Ferdinand, their dancey, jagged sound is very much in the now but quite catchy and energetic. They only played an abbreviated set but probably won over a good portion of the crowd.

Their last time through town, Arcade Fire nearly demolished Lee’s Palace and left a sea of dazed converts in their wake. This time, they faced the somewhat unenviable task of trying to match, let alone top that performance and in a word, they didn’t. It’s probably unfair to judge one gig against another, but coming just seven months apart, it’s unavoidable (hell, anyone going to all three nights this week would certainly be doing the same). This shouldn’t be construed as some sort of complaint, though – I mean how many times can you expect a band to change your life? Anyway, I’ll try to put that aside and just discuss last night’s show on its own merits. All I’m saying is that like it or not, the conscious or unconscious comparisons will be going on in your skull. Or mine, at least.

Beyond the whole “you can’t experience something for the first time again” syndrome, there were quantifiable reasons I felt this way. For the first part of the show, the performance seemed to lack the visceral impact that makes their live shows so exciting. Maybe it was the larger room but the sound – particularly the drums – didn’t have the same body-blow impact as at Lee’s (whoops). It was a much more polite mix. It also seemed the band wasn’t quite connecting with the audience for that essential energy feedback loop. I mean, it was good and all but I wasn’t feeling that certain je ne sais quoi as they powered through much of Funeral, some material from the demo EP and the excellent new tune “Intervention”.

But then something happaned about 2/3 of the way through the set, with “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)” leading straight into “Rebellion (Lies)”. The band, playing as a 9- or 10-piece, depending, found that next gear, took into the stratosphere and didn’t come back down for the rest of the night. The remainder of the show was nothing less than sublime, including the encore of “Wake Up” where Win brought a good portion of the audience onstage to sing, stand around and otherwise feel cooler than those of use still on the floor. Onstage with Lord only knows how many fans surrounding him, Win looked like a preacher with his flock at some southern Baptist revival. He then climbed into the audience, nearly fell over top of me and ran off through the crowd to points unknown. While the encore and the show on the whole was a little short (the Tuesday night show got two or three encores, reports vary), it would have been tough to top that finale and I don’t think anyone left disappointed.

It’s funny that everyone stayed nicely in their seats until Wolf Parade’s set – someone must have noticed Win Butler standing up at the front because everyone then flooded up to the front of the stage. I joined in (baaa) and got close enough to take some decent pictures with only a nominal number of crowd heads in the shots. There’s not a whole helluva lot you can do compositionally from the distance I was at, and I had to wait for the lighting to turn favourable, but I got a better set together than I’d expected. No complaints.

So with three sold-out nights at a 1250-capacity venue, I have to wonder where the Arcade Fire will go from here. Larger venues would seem necessary unless they’re willing to continue doing three- to five-night stands in the city, but there’s really no concert halls larger than the Danforth that would come with either a significant increase in ticket price, significant decrease in vibe (imagine them in the Kool Haus, yuck!) and much complaining from the indie faithful in either case. It’s a tough spot to be in, that’s for sure, and I hope someone else is more imaginative than me in thinking of a solution.

Billboard reports that Bob Mould has enlisted Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and former Sugar bassist and accomplice Dave Barbe for his touring band this Fall in support of Body Of Song, out July 26. I’m quite happy to see Bob has returned to more conventional guitar-based compositions – I would never begrudge an artist for trying new avenues of expression, but Loudbomb? No thanks. Clever anagram, though. Update: Thanks to Frank in Atlanta for clarifying that while Barbe does play on Body Of Song, he is NOT touring with Bob. Note to self – read the damn articles next time.

UK glam psych rockers The Coral are at the Mod Club June 7 and Martha Wainwright is there a couple days later on June 9.

NOW chronicles the fall of 20Hz and rise of Stille Post. Probably of interest to Torontonians only.

np – Bob Dylan / Nashville Skyline

By : Frank Yang at 9:17 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Frank in Atlanta says:

    Frank – David Barbe is one of my oldest and best friends (I’m also his lawyer), and your report that he would tour with Bob Mould in the fall came as a shock. So I e-mailed him just now, and he replied saying that he does play on Bob’s new solo record, but has not been asked and has no plans to join the touring band. So I thought I’d make that small correction.

    Thanks for the great write-up on the Arcade Fire show — next best thing to being there.

  2. suckingalemon says:

    hey.

    great shots!

    especially the stage ones.i think i see the top of my head in one of them.

    the stage invasion was worth the 4 songs they "didn’t" play.

    the show was so great.

    even waiting in line was tons of fun.

    the day went perfectly.

    cheers

  3. Frank says:

    I actually have more stage invastion shots that were kind of redundant, but if anyone wants to see if I have a pic of them onstage with the band, lemme know what to look for and I’ll get back to you.

  4. Gary Campbell says:

    Hey man, so last night I was at a pre-screening of "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy"… and man is it awful. Wooden acting, crater-sized plot holes… and it was boring to boot.

  5. D. says:

    The Coral…glam rock?!

  6. the infamous jen says:

    uggghhh…I wish the indie interweb would shut up already about Arcade Fire.

    I still love your site.

  7. suckingalemon says:

    if infamous jen wants the interweb to shutup about the arcade fire, then she should tell them to stop being the most awesome thing ever.

    frank, do you have any invasion shots more to the right, where the violins were? thanks.

    cheers

  8. travis says:

    hey frank, thats a great picture of Win rocking out on top of the crowd. Great show, I had so much fun. Oh and my blog is fixed now.

  9. Clark says:

    The Coral… glam rock? Have I missed something here?… excellent blog by the way :)

  10. kathryn says:

    aw, that reminds me so much of the dismemberment plan inviting fans up onstage during "ice of boston." good times.

    i’m very jealous of that billing — final fantasty, wolf parade, and, of course, the arcade fire — because i simply adore all three of those bands.

    have you heard any of the wolf parade EPs? i gather that what you heard last night must have had at least some new material…

  11. Frank says:

    I do not know why I wrote glam rock… I didn’t proof that before publishing.

  12. nev says:

    great show. great shots. do you happen to have any more invasion shots in the center/just to the left of win?

  13. Frank says:

    okay kids, I’ve uploaded all my raw, unprocessed photos of ye merry stage invasion here:

    http://…/

    If you can find yourself, great. If not, alas.

  14. Huskermould says:

    Finally, some blog in cyberspace who actually knows Bob Mould music. I hope he comes to Toronto (or somewhere close to Canada) to tour. I’m not sure if he was happy with the turnout at the last stop during the COLAS tour for Modulate.

  15. old salty says:

    Everything was "off" on Wednesday night. I wonder if that is why the band cut things short? Does anybody know why they abbreviated the show and switched the usual sequence of songs?

  16. mao says:

    Wolf Parade is great…their full-length is much-anticipated (produced by the guy from Modest Mouse, I think?)

    Find the track "I’ll Believe in Anything, You’ll Believe in Anything" from their CBC radio 3 sessions…man is that good!

  17. Andrew. says:

    Whilst the lot of you were watching the hype machine ( I admit, they ain’t too shabby, just not my thing) Greg Macpherson was belting his lungs out at the 360. A real show is when a guy and his guitar take the stage and rock the fuck out of the place. Greg is probably the only thing that Canada will ever have close to the likes of Billy Bragg Joe Strummer, or Springsteen. Hit up <a href="http://…/ G7</a> or <a href="http://…/ s site</a> for mp3’s and info.

  18. daniel josef says:

    Final Fantasy was the highlight of the show. I was sadly dissappointed with the Arcade Fire’s set. Great review, and amazing pics!