Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Photo by Frank Yang
I came this close to having to title this post “Maybe Not Tonight” as illness forced Nicole Atkins to cancel Saturday’s show in Buffalo, obviously putting Toronto’s show at risk. By mid-Sunday, however, there came another MySpace note declaring that a night off had done a world of good and the show would go on. Buffalo, we thank you for your sacrifice. Good luck with that fire in Cheektowaga.
Local support on the night was Magneta Lane, who were surprising inasmuch as they still existed. Though they arrived on the scene with some fanfare in 2003, they never seemed to manage to break out the “just bubbling under” cul de sac and eventually they seemed to fade from view but they’re back with a forthcoming new album, Gambling With God. I suppose they should be applauded for sticking to their guns – straight ahead, no frills rock’n’roll with a decent melodic sensibility – even after the garage rock bandwagon they rode in was put up on blocks. Though a few new songs indicated they were trying to branch out a bit – incorporating keyboards on a few songs, having frontwoman Lexi Valentine put down the guitar to just sing on another – they were all still built on the same aesthetic framework which will please their long-time fans, of whom there were more than a few in attendance, but not really give others any reason to start paying attention.
For Nicole Atkins & The Sea, this was their fourth show at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on a Sunday night in just over eight months – consider it the most drawn-out residency ever – but their first headlining slot. And while they’d always seemed to make a good impression as openers, I did wonder how well they’d draw on their own. Answer: pretty damn well. Though not a sell-out, there were exponentially more people there than I’d expected in my own mental worst-case scenario and even better, many seemed genuinely enthusiastic about Atkins and her album Neptune City. The set opened with the title track of said record and if Atkins was still suffering from whatever ailment had laid her up the night before, you couldn’t really tell.
Starting out with the quieter number was probably by design, allowing her to test the limits of her voice and as a result the show got off to a slower start than their previous shows. But after a few songs you could see them picking up steam and by set’s close, you couldn’t imagine there was anything in the world wrong with her voice. The set was a bit shorter than one would have liked but aside from that tentative start, the band did not spare the whip in playing the whole of Neptune City (including a glistening, lap steel-powered rearrangement of “Together We’re Both Alone” and audience singalong in “Brooklyn’s On Fire”), a bit of Bleeding Diamonds, a new song (the girl group-perfect “Teen Creep”) and a couple of covers (Benji Hughes and The Doors). This this was the first show wherein another Toronto date wasn’t already schedule a couple months down the road but based on the appetite this town has shown for her music, it won’t be long before she’s back again. And until then, Sunday’s stunning show will have to carry us over – and to assist, Hater High has a decent-sounding recording of Sunday night’s show available to download.
Photos: Nicole Atkins & The Sea, Magneta Lane @ Lee’s Palace – February 17, 2008
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Maybe Tonight”
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Party’s Over”
MP3: Magneta Lane – “Broken Plates”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “The Way It Is”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Neptune City”
Video: Magneta Lane – “Broken Plates”
Video: Magneta Lane – “Wild Gardens”
MySpace: Nicole Atkins
Now speaking of perennial opening acts who deserve a step up to the headline slot, Shearwater will return to town on May 11 for a date at Lee’s Palace opening up for Clinic (full dates here). This jaunt comes before the June 3 release of their new record Rook, so perhaps once that’s been unleashed on the world (do you unleash a bird?) they’ll return in the closing spot they so richly deserve. As for Clinic, their new one Do It! is out April 8 and they’re offering a free MP3 from it in exchange for your soul. Or your email address. Whichever. Coincidentally, it was on May 11 three years ago – my birthday – that I first discovered Shearwater whilst opening for The Mountain Goats.
Some more show notes… Toronto’s Forest City Lovers will be releasing their new record Haunting Moon Sinking on March 11 and are touring out east as well as playing locally – catch them either at an in-store at Soundscapes on March 9 at 2PM or a full show at the Tranzac on March 14 with The D’Urbervilles who they themselves have a new record called We Are The Hunters, out
now (and if not, very soon) today. I haven’t heard the former yet but have great expectations (and the samples on their MySpace backs that up) and while I didn’t really have any pre-conceived notions about the latter, I have heard it and am quite impressed.
It was probably too much to hope that a tour date on April 20 at the Opera House would mean that Rachael Yamagata had finally finished her second album. No, she’s touring in support of Sara Bareilles. Which, I suppose is about as productive a form of procrastination as there is, but still.
That same weekend marks the seventh edition of the Over The Top Fest. Baltimore’s Wye Oak are advertising their participation with a show on May 2. Good news, if you recall this post. Their If Children is out April 8.
Also incoming and with a B-more connection (tenuous, but they got namechecked in The Wire a few eps back), Dead Meadow are at Lee’s on May 24. Their new one is Old Growth and Athens Exchange has a Q&A with the band.
Thanks to For The Records for a number of the above show tips.
Gary Louris discusses Vagabonds, out today and streamable in its entirety on his MySpace, with The Star-Tribune. He’s at the Mod Club on March 30 and Minnesota Public Radio has a session recorded and up for grabs. Via claudpate.com.
Video: Spoon – “Don’t You Evah”