Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
Kingdom Of Rust
Doves and Wild Light at the Kool Haus in Toronto
Frank YangEven though there’s rarely a shortage of things to do in Toronto on any given night, it’s rare that I’ve ever faced a real dilemma about where I should or want to be – that was exactly the case this past Monday night when two tours hit town from opposite directions on the 401 and left me facing a difficult choice. A Camp at the Mod Club or Doves at the Kool Haus? Beautiful Swedish woman or pasty English guys? Lush pop or space rock? You could have flipped a coin and I’d probably have been content with the result, but in the end, even though I’d seen then numerous times before, I opted for the Mancunians – I was just in that Brit-rock kind of mood, I guess.
Doves have had a pretty terrific track record when it comes to selecting opening acts, so I’ll extend them a pass on this occasion (their second – they inflicted Starsailor on use back in 2002) with regards to Wild Light. I’d actually seen them at SxSW 2008, and deliberately so – something in the samples I’d heard must have caught my interest but when I actually saw them play, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was. Over a year later and with the band signed to a major label and their debut album Adult Nights under their belts, this performance did nothing to remind me. The New Hampshire outfit remains a talented crew, with three solid vocalist and instrumental chops to go around but lack any sort of personality, cranking out inoffensive, MOR-approved college rock. I tried to get it, I really did, but it just wasn’t happening. Next.
Consistency has been the hallmark of Doves’ recorded output since they first emerged with 2000’s Lost Souls – a trait that continued with this year’s solid but not revelatory album Kingdom Of Rust. Their live show, however, seemed to take a quantum leap forwards with their last visit four years ago – whereas their first visits featured a low-key band overly-reliant on backing tracks and projected visuals, their last visit featured an outfit decidedly more energetic and charismatic and that more extroverted delivery made all the difference in the quality of the live show.
This time out, taking the stage to the motorik intro of “Jetstream”, they were even looser but that wasn’t entirely a benefit – I don’t know if drummer Andy Williams had decided to play without a click for the first time or was just generally antsy about something, but for the first few songs the tempos were all over the place, the speeding up particularly noticeable in “Snowden”, which came across more lurching than regal. He eventually settled down, however, and Doves turned in another impressive performance, bassist Jimi Goodwin an especially gregarious frontman and guitarist Jez Williams a constant whirlwind of activity.
The set leaned heavily on new material early on but the band eventually worked their way through their back catalog to the classic material and hit all the right notes, including the first reading of “The Cedar Room” on the tour so far. I was particularly impressed with how much they’d gotten away from using pre-recorded backing tracks, adding a keyboardist to help fill things out but largely finally content to allow the live renditions of their meticulously-crafted studio versions be their own loose-limbed creatures, the songs sounding much more organic and dynamic as a result.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Kool Haus was not sold out – the crowd was a healthy size and obviously stoked for the show, but in general everyone’s personal space was being respected. Having been around for nearly a decade, it could simply be that their fanbase has finally hit a steady state, but it’s a good-sized one that many acts would kill to have. But as long as Doves keep turning out records as solid as they have been – and there’s no reason to think they won’t, consistency remember – and their live show keeps improving, these fans won’t be going anywhere.
Epilogue has an interview with Doves while fansite Doves Music Blog reports that the band will be releasing an instrumental-only version of Kingdom Of Rust on June 16 in digital form. Guess reviewers aren’t the only ones who think their music is cinematic.
Photos: Doves, Wild Light @ The Kool Haus – June 1, 2009
MP3: Wild Light – “Red House”
Video: Doves – “Kingdom Of Rust”
Video: Doves – “Snowden”
Video: Doves – “Sky Starts Falling”
Video: Doves – “Pounding”
Video: Doves – “Black & White Town”
Video: Doves – “There Goes The Fear”
Video: Doves – “Caught By The River”
Video: Doves – “The Cedar Room”
Video: Doves – “Sea Song”
Video: Doves – “Here It Comes”
Video: Doves – “The Man Who Told Everything”
Video: Doves – “Catch The Sun”
Video: Wild Light – “California On My Mind”
Elbow’s Guy Garvey discusses the band’s plans for following up their Mercury-winning The Seldom Seen Kid and plans for strategic worldwide domination with Billboard. Look for album number five in late 2010 and for them to play the Phoenix on July 29.
Little Boots, with whom The Times has an interview, is streaming the whole of her debut Hands in advance of its release this coming Tuesday. Exclaim reports that the North American release will be one of the first on the just-resurrected Elektra imprint – no word on whether the label intends to live up to their “neglectra” nickname during their second go-around.
Stream: Little Boots / Hands
Considering the band is formally on hiatus, I’ve been writing a fair bit about Belle & Sebastian lately. Most of that involves Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl project, the album for which is being released June 23. Murdoch has contributed a blog post to The Guardian wherein he explains the impetus for the project and also features the first part of a making-of video series. The Guardian also conducted an interview with Murdoch last month. They’ve also made a b-side MP3 with Murdoch on lead vocals available to download.
As for Belle & Sebastian’s other singer, Stevie Jackson, there’s a solo record that he has “been rather sporadically putting one together, the odd day here and there” but folks here in Toronto may get a sneak preview of some of the material next Thursday, June 11, as Jackson will be playing an informal jam session at the Imperial Pub. Details of what to expect are vague, but Jackson will be there along with a gaggle of local musicians – Final Fantasy amongst them – and music will ensue. It’s set to start around 10:30 but it’ll probably start later and if you want to be amongst the few in the really-not-large room, you’ll be there much earlier.