Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Teeth Sinking Into Heart
Rachael Yamagata, The Low Anthem at The Mod Club in Toronto
Frank YangGoing to as many shows as I do, I’ve come to expect a certain demographic in the audience with me. Which is to say largely male and frequently bearded. The audience at Friday night’s Rachael Yamagata show at the Mod Club, on the other hand, was most definitely predominantly female and for the most part, beardless. No, this was not one of my usual indie rock shows.
The audience was also impressively well-behaved, polite and attentive to support act The Low Anthem from Rhode Island. And they were easy to like, a trio with obvious and impressive musical ability – there was lots of instrument swapping on display – but able to check any muso inclinations in crafting a warm and gentle brand of country-rock, heavily indebted to Neil Young’s softer side but also able to turn it up a bit when the need arose. They may have been a bit too gentle to immediately spur me into seeking out their stuff, but a definite positive impression was made.
Rachael Yamagata has been through town a number of times in the past few years, supporting artists as disparate as Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore, but to my recollection this was her first headlining show in Toronto since her October 2004 show at the El Mocambo – that’s a long time. She even acknowledged as much early in the show, leading one to think she might make up for lost time and draw as much from her debut Happenstance as the just-released follow-up Elephants… Teeth Sinking Into Heart, but the set list still leaned heavily on the new material.
And that was perfectly fine – Elephants is a solid record, showcasing Yamagata’s ability to draw endless inspiration from the subject of hurt and heartbreak and spin them into either bruised balladry or pointed rockers. I don’t necessarily agree with the choice to split the two sides into separate discs – Happenstance blended them and offered a stronger impression of her range – but it’s a minor quibble. Her live show mixed up the fast and the slow, with Yamagata moving from keyboard to electric guitar as need be to lead her three-piece band. Though it seemed at a few points she was favouring her lower register, her voice was rich, raspy and appropriately torchy, and capable of heart-rending emotion.
Though Yamagata’s songs tend to dwell largely on sadness, she’s an engagingly chipper performer, chatting and joking with the audience at length. It was quite nice seeing a dynamic between artist and audience based on such genuine affection, where the former doesn’t have to try and win over the latter, but because of that fact gives it their all. The crowd – attentive and dead silent while she played – obviously loved her, and the feeling was mutual. Elephants should lift Yamagata to the stature of one capable of headlining her own shows, no longer the perennial support act. In Toronto, at least, she’s already there.
Photos: Rachael Yamagata, The Low Anthem @ The Mod Club – December 12, 2008
MP3: The Low Anthem – “To Ohio”
Video: Rachael Yamagata – “Faster”
Video: Rachael Yamagata – “Sunday Afternoon”
Video: Rachael Yamagata – “Elephants”
Video: Rachael Yamagata – “Sidedish Friend”
MySpace: Rachael Yamagata
MySpace: The Low Anthem
The long-discussed Will Sheff/Charles Bissell split-7″ – Will Sheff Covers Charles Bissell, Charles Bissell Covers Will Sheff – was released last week, and features Sheff covering The Wrens’ “Ex-Girl Collection” and Bissell doing Okkervil River’s “It Ends With A Fall”. Essential? Yes. Italian site Maps, the morning show for Italian radio station Citta Del Capo Radio Metropolitana, is also featuring a video/audio interview/session with Sheff. The site is in Italian but the interview is in English. Mostly.
The good news is A Camp’s Colonia will be getting a North American release. The bad news is it will happen on April 28. The good news is the European label is still listing their street date as February 2.
Though I had Bruce Peninsula’s debut A Mountain Is A Mouth as one of the “next big thing”-ey releases for 2009, it’s actually available digitally as of today – but the CD proper isn’t out until February 3. The band has lined up a number of dates in the new year to promote it – they’re at the Horseshoe on January 31 supporting The Tom Fun Orchestra, will do an in-store at Soundscapes on release day February 3 and play a proper release show of their own on February 22 at the Polish Combatants Hall. If you can only make one, I’d say that’s the one to circle.
And while the 2008 concert year is pretty much done with, 2009 is already stacking up quite nicely. Jayhawks by any other name, Gary Louris & Mark Olson will hit the road in support of Ready For The Flood, out January 27, including a February 4 date at the Mod Club in Toronto. Tickets are $22.50 for this seated show. Seats! At the Mod Club! Zounds!
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit will take their new eponymous album on the road following its release on February 17 and play the Horseshoe on March 4, tickets $12. There’s full dates at Paste and a new song streaming at their MySpace
Bloc Party continue their habit of coming to town only when it’s entirely inconvenient for me to attend (excepting festivals). Case in point, their just-announced March 14 date at the Kool Haus, tickets $35. Inconvenient because that’s the final night of CMW and I would hope that there’s worthwhile stuff going on at the festival, far from the foot of Jarvis St. Bloc Party also just rolled out a new video.
Video: Bloc Party – “One Month Off”