Tuesday, December 12th, 2006
Dance Dance Revelation
Henri Faberge & The Adorables’ monthly residence gigs at the Embassy in Kensington Market are something of a Toronto institution, or so I’ve been told as I’ve never been to one. This confession usually gets me a reaction somewhere between incredulity and disdain from the Torontonians I tell, so I’ve kept it on the down low. No particular reason I’ve never been – whenever it’s occurred to me I’ve usually been busy or whatever. And, while I still haven’t been, I did finally see the band live this past Sunday at the Whipper Snapper Gallery as the musical component of a holiday craft show.
While seeing The Adorables was something to cross off my “to do” list, the big draw for me was Ohbijou, whom I’d seen and been greatly impressed by at V Fest and opening for Joanna Newsom but was anxious to see again a) in a cozier environment and b) now that I’ve gotten to know their album Swift Feet For Troubling Times. And while it’s not meant as a slight to the record at all – it’s a warm and immensely beguiling collection of chamber pop – but it really doesn’t do the band justice if you’ve seen them live. Without compromising a bit of the charm of the album, the seven-piece band just sound so much bigger and lusher in performance. And on this night the band had a special Christmas treat in the form of a really amazing cover of Annie’s “Heartbeat”, transfered from clubland to the treehouse brilliantly. With this show, Ohbijou further cemented their status as one of my favourite new finds of the year.
The middle slot went to one Carmen Elle, who I’d initially assumed to be a folkie-type singer-songwriter based on the samples available online. And that’s certainly part of her game, her voice is far richer and songwriting more sophisticated than you’d expect to look at her, it’s evident that she has ambitions beyond that particular niche. She also assembled a band from locals Donlands & Mortimer and Spiral Beach and with them, engaged in some full-on prog-rock jamming that I certainly didn’t see coming. It was more than a bit incongruous but they had the chops for it and kept those excursions relatively compact. While Elle felt obliged to apologize for her perceived unprofessionalism, citing extreme nervousness, I found the promise and talent displayed far outweighed the general lack of focus. When – not if – she pulls all that together, I expect she’s going to do some mighty impressive things. And she’s got time – she’s only seventeen.
In true Toronto style, The Adorables have an immense and fluid lineup and on this night they were ten – maybe eleven – members strong, including almost all of The Bicycles. And I think there’s some cosmic rule that when you’ve got that many people on stage, it’s impossible to not produce upbeat pop tunes and have a good time doing it and that’s what the Adorables did. Sounding like the finale of a high school production of Grease held at a barn dance, their exuberance and antics didn’t quite live up to the legendary status I’d been promised (though some recent lineup changes may have had something to do with it), but they were still mightily entertaining if a bit exhausting to watch. And watching the band’s interaction with their regulars in the audience, of which there were many, it was easy to see why their fans are as devoted as they are.
That said, it was still the two acts on before them that left me most impressed for the evening but top to bottom the bill was a great sample of what’s right with Toronto at the moment. See? I’m coming around. For some Adorables audio, head over to I Heart Music, who is a big band booster.
Photos: Henri Faberge & The Adorables, Carmen Elle, Ohbijou @ The Whipper Snapper Gallery – December 10, 2006
MP3: Carmen Elle – “Violet”
MP3: Carmen Elle – “Some Apples”
MP3: Carmen Elle – “Edgar”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Misty Eyes”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Steep”
MySpace: Carmen Elle