Monday, January 19th, 2009
Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangI figure that by the end of last Thursday night, there was something like a sixty-degree centigrade difference in temperature between the patio at the Horseshoe and the front of the stage. Outside, it was the middle of a particularly nasty cold snap. Inside, it was a particularly intense show for a nearly-packed house from Land Of Talk.
It was a show a long time in coming. For the band, it was their first headlining date in a long time – their headlining tour in September to mark the release of Some Are Lakes, itself long-awaited, and while they technically made a Toronto appearance in late November opening for Broken Social Scene, there were many who wouldn’t accept an abbreviated set in an inhospitable venue. That included myself, whom after seeing them what seemed like every other week back in 2007, hadn’t seen them play since September 2007.
It’s been tough going for the band, with what had initially seemed like an unstoppable upwards trajectory turn into a seemingly endless series of stalls. In particular, a series of personnel changes that saw 2/3 of the initial lineup depart since the release of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss and health issues that were making this mini-tour of three Ontario dates the band’s last for some time. Not really ideal circumstances to promote a new record. But those were concerns for the past and the future – in the present, Land Of Talk were finally here and they’d brought friends with them from Montreal.
Little Scream were one of those most unique of acts – the ones without a website, MySpace or any information that I could find online – and as such, were a completely unknown quantity going in. Which was rather exciting, to be honest. And the reality of it wasn’t bad, either. An artist to whom a lot of the descriptors frequently used for Land Of Talk could also apply, singing with a PJ Harvey-ish intensity while playing riffs that echoed classic rock progressions (think Who) on an acoustic guitar amplified to the point of raggedness. At points, it seemed she was singing to herself in a trance rather than to the audience. Intriguing stuff, wish it were at all possible to find out more.
Zeroes were considerably less singular in their approach, flirting with pop, prog, new wave and punk that reminded me most of Wire and Franz Ferdinand. Some ideas worked better than others, but they veered from one to the next so quickly that any missteps were quickly left behind and the next brought to the fore. Unfailingly interesting and danceable, if you dance like a bit of a spaz.
Though the material is consistently superb, I’ve always found Land Of Talk to be a good to very good live act, with the obvious potential to be great but not quite hitting the target, at least not in any of the times I’d seen them. That, based on this show, is no longer the case. The trio put on an unquestionably powerful show, Liz Powell in particular displaying a sense of confidence that I hadn’t seen before. They split the set fairly evenly between Applause Cheer and Some Are Lakes material, with the latter being given a jolt of energy and excitement that I didn’t find to be present on the recorded versions. The album definitely succeeded in terms of stylistic growth, but it came at the expense of some of the live-wire sizzle of the first record. Translated live, the electricity was back.
And while I was dismayed by the departures of Bucky Wheaton and Chris McCarron, the rhythm section to which I’d first come to the band, new arrivals Andrew Barr – who played on the new album – and bassist Joe Yarmush – who also played in Zeroes but took the time to change outfits between sets – were also superb. Circumstances have dictated that Land Of Talk be considered the Liz Powell show, but her bandmates were doing their best to seem just as indispensable.
The show was a tremendous reminder of why Land Of Talk are one of the best new acts in the country, and ironically it came just as the band was going on hiatus. Though you couldn’t tell by listening, Powell is going in for surgery on her voice at month’s end and everything is on hold while she convalesces. It’s a good thing that Land Of Talk’s fans are used to waiting and know that it’s worth it.
Photos: Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream @ The Horseshoe – January 15, 2009
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MP3: Zeroes – “Arenas”
MP3: Zeroes – “Lamentia”
MP3: Zeroes – “Optimist”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MySpace: Land Of Talk
Following up the release of As Seen Through Windows on March 10, Bell Orchestre will play the Courthouse on April 24, tickets $15.