Thursday, October 15th, 2009
I Was Only Going Out
Loney Dear, Asobi Seksu and Anna Ternheim at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangAs is becoming something of a tradition for me, I once again spent Thanksgiving this year at a show rather than with family (we got together earlier in the weekend so stop judging me), though it was with a sort of extended family – labelmates in Loney Dear and Asobi Seksu (both on Polyvinyl) and country(wo)men in Loney Dear and Anna Ternheim (all Swedes). Yeah, that’s sort of a stretch but whatever.
There’d been some vagueness about the precise order of the sets – the infamous co-headline situation again – but it was certain that Ternheim would be first up. I’d listened to a few of her records including her latest, Leaving On A Mayday, and her songs, filled with that distinctly Swedish sort of melancholy, were of the sort that could easily go from small and folkish to big and orchestral and still sound right. So I was curious to see which direction she’d take them in a live setting and the answer, of course, was both. She started her set in solo acoustic fashion, showcasing her stark yet evocative voice to the dead silent room (it wasn’t especially full, no, but still) and then brought out a keyboardist for the second song to accompany her while she set the guitar down. She was then joined by Loney Dear’s band for the remainder of her performance and as striking as she was on her own, the bigger sound definitely won the day. The extra players gave her a rhythmic backbone and more importantly, a sweeping, dramatic dynamicism that honestly didn’t come across on record. Her set was woefully short due to being held-up at the border and generally getting lost, but if you consider the purpose of opening sets as to surprise and tantalize for more, then it was mission accomplished.
The question of whether Asobi Seksu would close the show or not was an ongoing one since it was announced, at least between me and myself. On one hand, they probably had the larger fanbase than Loney Dear and in terms of pacing, their deafening strobe-powered attack would be more logically suited to sending people home in a daze. On the other, this was their third show in Toronto in just over seven months so that fanbase’s attendance might not be such a given, particularly on a holiday, and considering their next record Rewolf was an acoustic affair and one that they’d already performed live, perhaps they would be keeping things more low-key? As it turned out they were indeed on second and no, they weren’t intending to turn down. As such, their set was much like the one at the El Mocambo back in March, mixing up the older, poppier songs with the Hush material, which still hasn’t really won me over. So familiar, yes, but still entertaining and actually a welcome jolt of energy for the night.
I think I was too harsh on Dear John when I wrote it up way back in January. Yes, it doesn’t stray far, either sonically or songwriterly (that’s a word now), from Emil Svanangen’s previous works under the Loney Dear marque, but I’m seeing now that’s because he’s fixated on capturing one specific mood or theme in music and much of what he creates are attempts to perfect it. Thankfully, his elusive goal is the moment where angst turns into elation and the sense of uplift that results and he expresses it with orchestral pop music. Of course. This was Loney Dear’s first stop in Toronto in a couple of years and a make-up for a failed attempt to visit back in May when their van broke down en route. And while that show at Lee’s in June 2007 was hardly a sell-out, those who were in attendance remember it fondly.
And those who were at the Horseshoe on this holiday Monday would likewise take away some warm memories of another wonderful show. Re-reading my review of the Lee’s show, I find myself at risk of repeating myself, but it bears repeating – Svanangen’s live band really took his songs to another level, deftly adding more bits of musical flourish and detail than four people with just two hands each really had any business doing in real time. And as such, they managed to recreate the richness of his compositions while still recasting and reconfiguring them enough to feel quite new. Particularly essential was backing vocalist Malin Stahlberg, who in addition to handling keys, guitar and percussion, sang most of Svanangen’s falsetto parts with more strength and bearing, and amazingly handled all of the tongue-twisting bridge of “I Am John” while Svanangen took the easy, “nah nah nahs”.
But as great as the band is, it’s still all about Svanangen. His permanently forlorn countenance is simultaneously at odds with yet perfectly suited for the sounds and songs he sings. Drawing material from across all his albums, the live setting proved a great equalizer for the production aesthetic of the recorded versions – the sparer arrangements of Sologne felt more fleshed out and Dear John‘s mechanical aftertaste was made more organic, settling in that sweet spot that was Loney, Noir. The performance was splendid from the get-go but the undoubted highlight was when Svanangen stepped out to the front of the stage, unamplified, and sang (I think) “In With The Arms” to the house. Now he doesn’t have the most powerful voice, so it’s perhaps a good thing that the crowd was modestly sized and thus easier to silence, but doing that, and backed with Stahlberg’s harmonies, was simply perfection. In all, they played nearly 90 minutes including two encores though at no point in between did Svanangen leave the stage – no point going through the formality, we were going to keep them playing for as long as possible. And thought it finally did end, obviously, all three of Loney Dear’s last records have been a steady soundtrack for the days since the show. It makes my angst into elation and that’s just what I need right now.
Photos: Loney Dear, Asobi Seksu, Anna Ternheim @ The Horseshoe – October 12, 2009
MP3: Loney Dear – “Ignorant Boy Beautiful Girl”
MP3: Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”
MP3: Loney, Dear – “I Am John”
MP3: Loney, Dear – “A Few Good Men”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Suzanne”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Me & Mary”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Familiar Light”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “New Years”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Thursday”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Sooner”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Walk On The Moon”
MP3: Anna Ternheim – “What Have I Done”
MP3: Anna Ternheim – “To Be Gone”
Video: Loney Dear – “I Was Only Going Out”
Video: Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”
Video: Loney, Dear – “I Am John”
Video: Loney, Dear – “Saturday Waits”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Transparence”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Me & Mary”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Thursday”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Goodbye”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Walk On The Moon”
Video: Anna Ternheim – “Today Is A Good Day”
Video: Anna Ternheim – “Summer Rain”
Video: Anna Ternheim – “Girl Laying Down”
Video: Anna Ternheim – “Shoreline”
Video: Anna Ternheim – “To Be Gone”
Video: Anna Ternheim – “I’ll Follow You Tonight”
MySpace: Loney Dear
MySpace: Asobi Seksu
MySpace: Anna Ternheim
Video: Headlights – “Get Going”
Stream: The Swell Season / Strict Joy
The National Post talks to Wilco’s John Sitrratt while The AV Club gets Jeff Tweedy to respond to some of the random stuff written about him on the internet. They play the second of their two nights at Massey Hall tonight.
Mew have set a date for the Mod Club on December 6.