Monday, May 14th, 2007
The Magic Position
From this day forward, my benchmark for a successful birthday will require glitter, streamers and someone – anyone – stripping down to gold lamé hot pants. Friday evening, I forwent my usual b-day ritual of pizza and pinball at Chuck-E-Cheese to line up hours in advance of the Patrick Wolf show at the El Mocambo. Considering that he’d been the recipient of no small amount of media attention lately, getting there early to avoid the theoretical mad rush of people seemed prudent.
Though doors weren’t opening until 7, the lineup outside the ElMo had started early with people arriving as early as 4PM and by the time they did begin letting people in, it was stretched around the corner onto College St. Now while that may sound impressive, I did a quick head count and that amounted to around 80 people or so and after everyone who had been waiting outside was admitted, the crowd seemed surprisingly sparse (I’d guess maybe a couple hundred in attendance by show’s end). Perhaps many of those who would have otherwise wanted to see the show had assumed that with tickets only available at the door, it’d have been sold out before they got there? Or maybe, and more likely, people just didn’t know about the show (announced only a week prior) or didn’t care. Either way, for those who opted to stay home, it was their loss.
Cuff The Duke frontman Wayne Petti got the last-minute call to open up after originally scheduled support act Bishi canceled. His country troubadour stylings were a strange fit for Wolf’s audience and Petti knew it – I doubt he’s ever played to a front row wearing that much glitter before. Playing songs from his solo debut City Lights Align as well as a cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” which he probably hoped no one noticed he flubbed the lyrics on, Petti kept things short and sweet and reminded me that I should give his record another spin.
By this point, much of the audience had been waiting for Mr Wolf for going on five hours and were getting extremely excited and agitated for his appearance. Me, my back was starting to hurt. I’m an old man now, after all. But shortly before 9PM, Wolf and his band took the stage and for the next hour were nothing short of fabulous. Wolf was a dervish on stage whether on ukelele, violin, piano or just singing in his wonderfully rich and dramatic baritone, performing material from all three of his albums though the only one I was really familiar with was his latest, The Magic Position and its technicolour orchestral pop. He also made his way through a series of costume changes that started out with knickerbockers and suspenders that made him look not a little like an overgrown Von Trapp Family Singer, then into an ensemble that looked a bit like Aladdin Sane as a court jester. From this he eventually stripped down to just his skivvies (the aforementioned gold lamé undies) before covering up again somewhat and returning for the encore in a sort of toy soldier outfit.
Reporting on what he was wearing may not seem important, but the visual presentation was as much a part of the show as the music – Wolf is mesmerizing to watch when he performs, and it’s unthinkable that he could have considered retiring from live performance. It’s obvious that he thrives on the stage and has charisma to spare. And while he’s surely getting more exposure than ever opening for the likes of Arcade Fire and Amy Winehouse (did he keep his pants on at Mod this weekend?), I suspect that playing a small club show like this one where everyone was there to see him, whether already fans or waiting to be converted, was extra fun for him as well. I, for one, was definitely won over by his show though The Magic Position had already been doing its thing on me in the week since I initially posted about it. The only downside of the whole show was due to time constraints, he wasn’t able to finish off the intended set – I think three songs got cut – though we in the audience were able to convince the house to let him come out for one quick a capella encore.
I’d initially been reluctant to spend my birthday at a show but this turned out to be one of the best evenings I’ve had, turning a year older or not, in recent memory. The music, the performance, the vibe from the audience, were all terrific. I don’t know when Wolf will come back to town – even if he’s not retiring it doesn’t sound like he’ll be hitting the road for a while after this Fall – but when he does, I’ll be back, front row, and maybe I’ll bring streamers.
Blacking Out The Friction also has a review and some pics.
Photos: Patrick Wolf, Wayne Petti @ The El Mocambo – May 11, 2007
MP3: Patrick Wolf – “The Magic Position”
MP3: Wayne Petti – “Moment By Moment”
Video: Patrick Wolf – “Accident And Emergency” (YouTube)
Video: Patrick Wolf – “The Magic Position” (YouTube)
Video: Patrick Wolf – “Bluebells” (YouTube)
MySpace: Patrick Wolf
Pitchfork interviews Win Butler of Arcade Fire while The Montreal Mirror talks to Jeremy Gara and NOW asks Richard Reed Perry about his favourite things in Toronto. He’ll get the chance to scarf down some street meat before their shows at Massey Hall this Tuesday and Wednesday.
And if you don’t have tickets for the Arcade Fire Tuesday, might I suggest heading to The Boat in Kensington instead to catch Miracle Fortress? I saw him playing solo at Pop Montreal last year but now he’s got a band behind him and a very good new record in Five Roses. It sounds a bit like a cross between The Beach Boys and My Bloody Valentine though a lot less formulaic than that might sound to the musically jaded (those being the #1 and #2 over-used indie-pop reference points these days). Don’t think about the noise and walls of sound usually associated with MBV, instead think of the delicacy and melodicism. It’s good stuff and you should check it out because you’re only going to be hearing about it more and more as time goes on so you may as well get on board now. NOW asks Graham Van Pelt how much he loves Toronto while Hour goes out in left field and talks to him about his music.