Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
Little Boots and Yes Giantess at Wrongbar in Toronto
Frank YangIt could be inferred from last week’s review of Little Boots’ debut Hands that I felt that she’d failed to deliver on the immense expectations foisted on her at the start of the year, what with everyone in the media ready to crown Ms Victoria Hesketh the queen of pop for 2009 and so her failure to utterly dominate every aspect of the music industry could only be viewed as a disappointment. This is, in fact, not necessarily my view – I think Hands is a tremendously fun and catchy record. I was just interpreting the general tenor of the press, which had been ready to attend her coronation just months ago.
Well it may have come a little later than expected but Monday night’s show at Wrongbar in Toronto – the first of her North American tour – could well have been mistaken for one. You’d have had trouble finding anyone in the packed, sweaty club who wasn’t ready to declare the pint-sized electro-pop artist the greatest thing to happen to music since the invention of the Victrola. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement but people were indeed excited and anxious. And as the wait dragged on, restless and bored.
Openers Yes Giantess from Boston had done a decent job of warming things up. Collegiate-looking and casually dressed in t-shirts and plaid shirts, the quartet looked like they should be strapping on guitars and playing disaffected garage rock but instead, they were three keyboards and a drummer and turned out punchy, catchy synth-pop that offered more enthusiasm than sophistication but was enjoyable nonetheless. Over the course of their short set – barely a half hour if even that – the club had begun to fill in nicely and as they loaded out, the room began to pack in.
Exactly why it took an hour to set up the stage for a three-piece band, two-thirds of which were synths, is unclear, but as the clock ticked past 11:30 – half an hour past the scheduled start time – the anxiousness was palpable. Surely it wasn’t some ploy to build more anticipation? Does that actually work? Apparently it does. When her band finally took their places and they opened up with “Meddle”, the place went nuts, and didn’t stop for pretty much the duration of her set. Unsurprisingly, she stayed away from the slower numbers from Hands and stuck to the big, anthemic dancefloor bangers and while that made for a shorter set than you may have wanted for the price of admission, there was no skimping on the energy of the show.
Hesketh was pretty much always in motion, dancing and working both sides of the room when not tending to her keyboard, theremin and tambourine. Her signature Tenori-On and Stylophone were also on hand but as with the two previous times I’d seen her play, exactly what they did remained a mystery. She complained that the Tenori-On wasn’t working before the start of main set closer “Remedy” but they went on to play it exactly as I’d have expected it to sound if it was all systems go. Following a short break, they returned for their cover of Freddie Mercury and Giorgio Moroder’s “Love Kills” before going into an extended “Stuck On Repeat” which was as close to a jam as a largely synthesized and sequenced band could get. The only disappointment on the night was “Symmetry”, in which the absence of duet partner Philip Oakey was keenly felt. Both Hesketh’s drummer and keyboardist were mic-ed and tried to cover the boy parts, but were too low in the mix and un-Oakey-ish to properly compensate. But that’s a minor complaint, and was to be expected.
As they proved at SxSW, Little Boots sets a fine example for electro-pop acts hoping to succeed in the live setting – bring a live drummer, a willingness to keep the energy levels dimed for the duration of the show and oh yeah, have some terrific tunes. Worth the wait, and if the reception at the other stops on the tour come close to the one she got in Toronto, critics may want to reconsider writing Little Boots off.
Photos: Little Boots, Yes Giantess @ Wrongbar – September 14, 2009
MP3: Little Boots – “Love Kills” (Buffetlibre vs Sidechains remix)
MP3: Little Boots – “Meddle” (remix)
MP3: Little Boots – “Earthquake” (Yes Giantess remix)
MP3: Yes Giantess – “You Were Young”
Video: Little Boots – “Remedy”
Video: Little Boots – “New In Town”
MySpace: Little Boots
MySpace: Yes Giantess
Trailer: Where The Wild Things Are
The Chicago Sun-Times chats with Ida Maria, who apparently had a breakdown of some kind in Boston the other night… here’s hoping she gets it together in time for tomorrow night’s show at the Opera House. Co-headlining that show is Ladyhawke, who is the subject of features at Flavorwire and The Independent. There’s also a remix contest going on over at Filter, where you can have your way with “My Delirium”
Check out the title track from Thao with The Get Down Stay Down’s forthcoming album Know Better Learn Faster, and note that pre-orders of the album – out October 13 – will come with a ticket to a show on their upcoming tour including the November 1 date at the El Mocambo in Toronto.
Vampire Weekend – who just announced details of their second album Contra, due out January 12 of next year – will preview the new record with a pair of Canadian dates including an October 8 date at the Horseshoe. Word is tickets go on sale tomorrow morning via Ticketmaster only.
Florence & The Machine will make their Toronto debut on November 2 at the Mod Club, thus scuppering my plans of seeing Monsters Of Folk make their Toronto debut at Massey Hall that same night. Tough call, but I think I have to go with Flo. And M Ward wouldn’t let me take pictures anyways. Tickets $15.
The Rural Alberta Advantage have set a date for Lee’s Palace on November 4, tickets $15. Lee’s! They grow up so fast!
Apostle Of Hustle will also be doing a hometown show at Lee’s – look for them on November 19.
And here’s an interesting/exciting announcement – DEVO is coming to town for the first time in a quarter-century. They’ll be at the Phoenix on November 23 and 24, playing Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO! and Freedom Of Choice in their entirety, respectively. And there’s no reason to believe the energy domes will not be along for the ride. Tickets will be $48.25 with premium tickets including a meet and greet with the band available for $99.75. Either price tier will get you a bundle of demo MP3s to download. Those will go on sale on September 18.
Video: DEVO – “Whip It!”
Their last gig at the Phoenix being such a triumph, Phoenix will return for a show at the Sound Academy on December 5 and to make sure things go just as well as they did that show, they’re even bringing Amazing Baby back to open. Tickets for that are $28.