Thursday, March 20th, 2008
Photo by Frank Yang
I was a bit curious what attendance was going to be like for UK soul starlet Duffy’s Toronto debut on Tuesday night. I’ve often joked that even a C-list British artist could sell out a room in Toronto, but tickets for the holder of the #1 album and single in the UK seemed surprisingly easy to get, right up until the day of. But by the time the doors were open it was properly sold out so that was one potential restructuring of my reality avoided. With no opening act, there was a lot of standing around and waiting but when Ms Duffy finally strode out on stage around ten minutes past nine to great applause it was evident no one was holding the delay against her.
Now it’s not too often I see the same performer twice in the span of three days, but happened that I was in attendance after seeing her the previous Saturday in Austin at SxSW so a little compare and contrast was inevitable, and to that end, impossible. Because save for the venue and the banter – “Hello Toronto!” rather than “Hello Austin!” – the show was very similar. A bit longer but still barely an hour with encore and covering pretty much the whole of Rockferry (out in North America May 13) and a b-side. No fault there – she only has so much material, some of it superb. Chart-topper “Mercy” really is a standout and a half and the slow-burning “Stepping Stone” is also exceptional.
But as much concentrated live Duffy as I’ve had in the past few days, a few things stand out to me. First, her voice – while strong and soulful – is unmistakably of the blue-eyed variety and, for lack of a better word, rather chaste-sounding. Very proper. Similarly, her stage presence is a bit stiff – I got the sense that despite being all smiles and politeness, she wasn’t completely comfortable onstage. I’ve read a few things about earlier performances to that effect and while I don’t doubt she’s made great strides as a performer, her (few) stage moves seemed overly rehearsed and not especially spontaneous. None of this should be surprising when you consider the speed of her ascendancy from nowhere, however. Great performers are made, not born, and while charisma is to a large degree innate, it can be obscured by shyness. Time will tell if Duffy’s got it. Lord knows with the amount the girl is going to be working this year, she’ll have plenty of opportunity to find it and in the meantime, well, she’ll have to settle for selling tons of records and selling out shows everywhere she goes. Tough life.
And to the guy seeking an autograph in the middle of the show… dude – time and place.
The other single-named British soul singer whom Duffy can’t seem to escape sharing column-inches with, Adele, will make her own Toronto debut with an already sold-out show at the Rivoli next Wednesday night. JAM and NOW have interviews with her and Billboard reports her album 19 will get a North American release later this Summer.
According to Spinner, Matt Pond is preparing to reclaim his name by ditching his name. With the release of their next album, Matt Pond PA will be no longer, instead operating under the name of The Dark Leaves. But for now, they’re still Matt Pond PA and will be as such when they play Lee’s Palace on April 2 opening for Carbon/Silicon.
With his archives well and properly cleared out, Billy Bragg will release his first new record in six years with Mr Love & Justice, out April 8. The album minisite has got album info and some live performance videos and Billy will be in town to promote it on June 17 with a show at an unexpected but welcome venue – Harbourfront Centre. Digital Spy talks to Billy about the new record.
Elvis Costello has a new album – Momofuku – slated for release on April 22. This appears to be a set of all new material and not another sneaky attempt to get you to buy My Aim Is True for a twelfth time.
eye and The Toronto Star spend a little quality time with The Raveonettes, in town tomorrow for an acoustic in-store at Sonic Boom at 6:30 and a fully fuzzed-out electric show at the Opera House later that evening.
Drowned In Sound wonders why 1997 is looming so largely over this year’s festival circuit. Anyone know what was Jack Johnson doing in 1997?
Because no one demanded it – not one, but two Cure tribute albums! Though I have to say, between the two of them those are some pretty good artists taking part. Which will be the Armageddon and which will be the Deep Impact of Cure tributes? Only time will tell.
New York Magazine speculates that playing Scott Pilgrim in the forthcoming film adaptation might be the best thing for Michael Cera’s career. Yes, that’s right. Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim. Maybe. I don’t know how I feel about this.