Monday, March 31st, 2008
Photo by Frank Yang
Had it really been almost five months since I last saw Basia Bulat live? I know that doesn’t seem like a long time, but considering I’d caught her and her band some half-dozen times last year, that’s a long time. And in that time, she’s released her record Oh My Darling in the US and has been touring south of the border relentlessly, making Saturday night’s gig at Lee’s Palace a homecoming of sorts (yes I know she’s from London – I said “of sorts”).
For the occasion, she enlisted a couple of acts with whom she’d been been playing around southern Ontario – Ottawa’s Amos The Transparent and Toronto’s Katie Stelmanis. The former features what you could call a malleable lineup – the first time I saw them, their lineup numbered in the double digits and the last time, they were a much leaner four-piece. I was hoping that they’d see fit to bring a few more compatriots along this time to fill the larger Lee’s stage but again, it was the quartet and I suspect that I should expect that to be the case from now on. But whatever disappointment I felt about that was dispelled by the reminder that even with just the four of them, they could do the richly melancholy pop of Everything I’ve Forgotten To Forget justice, complete with harmonies and little musical and percussive accents that you might have expected to have been left in the studio.
I’d seen Katie Stelmanis before as part of Bruce Peninsula, but her own music is quite a bit removed from that collective’s rural gospel choir. Here, Stelmanis’ operatic vocals are brought to the fore but mated to electronic and acoustic percussion, guitar, synths and keyboards in way that leaves me at a bit of a loss to try and describe it beyond listing off its component parts. Sufficed to say that I found it interesting if not entirely enjoyable and her take on Roy Orbison’s “Crying” was maybe a little disturbing.
And for Basia, it must be a treat to come back to Canada to play to full houses of fans rather than trying to win over new audience after new audience in America. Which isn’t to say that she’s not succeeding – most accounts I’ve read indicate that she’s leaving a trail of fans in the US wherever she goes – but they’ll probably still have a ways to go before they can equal the excitement and cheer of the Toronto fans. The set ran a bit shorter than I’d have expected or liked, but it still hit all the high points of Oh My Darling and featured a few new songs with Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End” now being the cover song du jour. And though the road warrior lifestyle may have given the band some well-earned polish and tightness – I swear their harmonies sound better every time I see them, and that’s saying something – their giddiness and pure joy of playing music comes across as fresh as ever. And when the whole of Lee’s Palace was clapping along for the opening of “I Was A Daughter”, well it felt like Spring had finally arrived.
Photos: Basia Bulat, Katie Stelmanis, Amos The Transparent @ Lee’s Palace – March 29, 2008
MP3: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
MP3: Katie Stelmanis – “In My Favour”
MP3: Amos The Transparent – “After All That Its Come To This”
Video: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MySpace: Basia Bulat
MySpace: Katie Stelmanis
MySpace: Amos The Transparent
Stereogum has assembled another of their “man the 90s were great” tribute albums, this one for Bjork’s Post. Head over to grab covers by the likes of White Hinterland, Evangelicals and a collaboration between Final Fantasy and Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste.
And speaking of magazine covers, the release of Elephant Shell on April 22 means that Tokyo Police Club’s faces will be beaming from the cover of Exclaim! for the next 30 days or so. Spinner also has a quick interview. They’ve got two shows at the Opera House on May 2 and 3.