Monday, July 7th, 2008
Destroy Everything You Touch
Photo by Frank Yang
Though celebrating its fifth anniversary this year and surely the longest running program of Harbourfront Centre’s World Routes Summer festival series, I’d never been to any of the Beats, Breaks & Culture shows before. Not the biggest fan of beats or breaks, and the jury is still out on this whole “culture” thing. But as I mentioned a couple weeks back, Ladytron’s latest Velocifero has been in very heavy rotation lately and with them playing a free show on Friday night as part of the aforementioned festival, there was simply no way I was missing it (and if my Facebook friends’ status’ were any indication, no one else was missing it either).
Ladytron’s tourmates throughout their North American itinerary had been Datarock and they’d originally been slated to play this date as well, but at some point they were removed and French outfit Poni Hoax added. This was disappointing as I’d seen Datarock before and if nothing else, they’re fun to watch. Poni Hoax, on the other hand, really wasn’t. By dressing up synth-rock with Euro-lounge accouterments, the five piece might have aspired to the likes of Roxy Music, but came off more like Dead Or Alive. A large part of the problem was frontman Nicolas Ker, who looked about ten years older than his bandmates and with a decidedly unsettling, creepy uncle vibe. Perhaps a superficial reason to dismiss a band, but they didn’t do anything musically interesting enough to distract me from it. The most memorable facet of their set was the drummer, who despite being barely functional in English, enthusiastically handled all of the band’s between-song banter. Entertaining and incomprehensible.
Watching they set up the stage for Ladytron, it occurred to me that for all the times I’d been to shows at the Habourfront Centre mainstage, it was always for local or Canadian acts who came without especially elaborate stage setups. The difference between those shows and this one became clear when the roadies pulled the covers off the massive banks of lights across the back of the stage – Ladytron came equipped with visuals, oh yes. Now I’d been led to believe by others who’d seen them live before that they were almost Kraftwerk-ian in their stoic stage presence, which is to say I wasn’t expecting them to move any more than was absolutely necessary to play their instruments and sing. Thankfully, this was not the case. While frontwomen Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo didn’t stray far from their massive banks of synths, they did step up to the mics when it was their respective turns to take vocals as well as dance, or at least sway and skip. Bandmates Reuben Wu and Daniel Hunt sensibly stayed well in the back along with the touring drummer and second guitarist – no one was there to look at them, after all. There weren’t any extravagant antics, but they were hardly the robotic presence I’d half-expected. After all, robots don’t lead two thousand people in clap-alongs (okay, you could probably program one to do so but it wouldn’t be the same).
But even if they did have the charisma of automatons, the show would have rocked. First, the venue was obscenely packed with frantic fans who would have easily made up the net energy and second, Ladytron sounded fantastic. Obviously I’m a guitar guy at heart, but I can fully appreciate being hit in the face with a big fat analog square wave, especially when it’s riding songs as unrelentingly propulsive and hooky as these. The benefits of volume became clear to me earlier in the week when I listened to Velocifero on the stereo turned up loud, and they were even more obvious in a live setting with a pretty much perfect mix. Almost half the set drew from the latest album, guaranteeing that I’d at least recognize a lot of the songs, and the rest is definitely forcing me into a reappraisal of their entire catalog – I already have The Witching Hour on order, though as it turns out they were selling it at the show. Alas.
Photos: Ladytron, Poni Hoax @ Harbourfront Centre – July 4, 2008
MP3: Ladytron – “Black Cat”
MP3: Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch”
Video: Ladytron – “Ghosts”
Video: Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch”
Video: Ladytron – “Sugar”
Video: Ladytron – “Evil”
Video: Ladytron – “Blue Jeans”
Video: Ladytron – “Seventeen”
Video: Ladytron – “Play Girl”
Video: Poni Hoax – “Antibodies”
Video: Poni Hoax – “Budapest”