Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Heart Of My Own
Basia Bulat and The Luyas at Trinity-St. Paul’s in Toronto
Frank YangIt struck me about mid-way through Basia Bulat’s concert at Trinity-St. Paul’s on Saturday night that though it was an album release show for her eagerly-anticipated new album in Heart Of My Own, the album wasn’t going to be released for another couple of weeks yet – January 26, to be exact – and as such, many/most of the just under 800 people in the sell-out crowd had never heard the new songs. An obvious point, certainly, but one that I had overlooked since I’d been secretly nursing a copy of the record since early last Fall and so the new songs were almost as familiar to my ears as those from her 2007 debut, Oh, My Darling.
And that’s why it was even more remarkable that, contrary to typical concert etiquette which dictates that you sit politely through the new material while waiting for the familiar gems, people were responding to the Heart material almost as enthusiastically as they did the selections from Darling. I’m sure this was as much pent-up enthusiasm for Bulat’s return to her hometown stages, what with her having only played one show in the past year and a half, but also a testament to the quality and immediacy of the new material – it’s worth noting that the folks I was with, at least, were quite genuinely excited about several of the new songs, and continued talking about them after the show was done.
Of course, the delivery of the songs surely had something to do with the impression they made. Trinity-St. Paul’s may well be second only to Massey Hall as far as perfect musical venues in Toronto go, and you couldn’t have asked for a better setting to get re-acquainted with Bulat. She certainly couldn’t, mentioning several times through the night how excited she was to be performing in the space. Fronting a 6-piece band that had a couple of new faces since the last time I saw them, Bulat’s set featured much of the big, harmony-laden orchestral folk-pop that I’d missed the past year and a half, but also a few surprises.
Early on, she took to a grand piano set off to the side of the stage and almost completely out of sight, played “Run” from the new record and “Snakes And Ladders” from Darling, neither of which I’d ever heard on piano. I didn’t even know she could play piano. Similarly, “If Only You”, a jaunty, horn-inflected full-band number on the record, was performed solo with no loss of energy. The performance wasn’t without its stumbles; apparently an autoharp broke on the second song of the evening, a song had to be stopped and re-started because Bulat’s guitar was capo-ed into the wrong key and there were a couple of missed cues. But these minor missteps were handled with such grace and humour that it really became a case of the imperfections that helped make an evening perfect.
As far as show-stoppers went, there were two – the solemn, hammered harp-led “The Shore” was as much a highlight live as on the album, and at the end of the encore which again found Bulat alone onstage, clapping and stomping her feet as she sang the folk standard “Death Come Creeping” unamplified into the church for a stirring finale. I usually find that standing ovations are given out a little too freely at seated shows – they seem almost mandatory – but this one was justly and wholly deserved.
Opening up for the night was Montreal’s The Luyas, whom I’d seen last February and seemed at the time to be a work in progress, trying to find a balance between pop and experimentalism. Well it seems they’ve spent the last year entrenching themselves in that place between styles and their set was an interesting, and sometimes odd, demonstration of trying to make it work. On the plus side, the band – now expanded to a five-piece with violin and keys augmenting the french horn, guitar and drums – sounded quite polished, in an orchestral/post-rock sort of way. On the downside, the musical sophistication made the wavery, childlike vocals of frontwoman Jessie Stein seem much rougher than they were probably intended. Net result? Ambivalence, but not nearly enough to keep the night as a whole from being pure gold.
Narratives and BlogTO also have reviews of the show and Metro and Chart interviews. Also just announced was Bulat’s next show – a free in-store at Soundscapes on February 16 at 7PM. It goes without saying that you should be there and and be there early.
Photos: Basia Bulat, The Luyas @ Trinity-St. Paul’s – January 16, 2010
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Go On”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Gold Rush”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
Video: Basia Bulat – “In The Night”
MySpace: Basia Bulat
The National Post, Dose, Kelowna.com and The Indie Files have interviews with Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon. They have a show at the Drake Underground on February 11 and an in-store at Soundscapes on February 14 at 5PM.
The Guardian, Spinner, Clash and Chart have features on Owen Pallett, who offers a track-by-track walkthrough of Heartland to Drowned In Sound. He has a show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 8 with a pretty excellent guest if rumours are to be believed.
Chart has details on a forthcoming covers compilation that brings together artists like Stars, Dean & Britta and Tanya Donelly to reinterpret songs that are, well, quiet. Kind of a dubious theme but if it offers the opportunity to hear Neil Halstead do Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting”, I’ll take it. Sing Me To Sleep is due out May 18.
Also with a new video is Laura Marling, whose I Speak Because I Can is out March 22 and who plays Lee’s Palace on February 9. For Folk’s Sake has a bit of information on album number two and reveals that album number three is also planned for release this year, targeted for September 2010.
I mentioned last week how it seemed that Tuesday posts should be set aside for just concert announcements – well there wasn’t nearly the volume of news this week as last, but what there was was quality.
Like the fact that before their sold-out show at the Phoenix on Thursday night, Dinosaur Jr would be playing an in-store at Sonic Boom at 6:30PM. Did I say “.”? I meant, “!!!!!!!”. Dinosaur Jr. In-store. Sonic Boom. January 21. 6:30. Yes. Queen’s Journal has a chat with drummer Murph.
And to follow up last Thursday’s post, Ms Joanna Newsom will indeed be driving through the city, but also pulling off the highway and stopping in for a show at the Phoenix on March 13. Tickets are $22.50 and go on sale Thursday, and though it doesn’t appear to be a Canadian Musicfest-affiliated show, it’s also not in conflict as it’s an early gig – doors at 6, show at 6:30. Her new album Have One On Me is out February 23. Clash has an interview with Newsom about the new record.
And it’s a good thing that Newsom’s show isn’t overlapping the CMF stuff because The Brother Kite announced last week that they’d be playing the festival on Saturday, and I didn’t want to have to choose one or the other. Their new album Isolation is done and awaiting release – Popdose had them in for a living room interview and session last year. Even in such a casual setting, it’s absurd how good they sound.
I’d also mentioned that the April 1Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show had been moved from The Phoenix to the Sound Academy – well it’s now moved back to the Phoenix. To handle the additional demand, a second show has been added a week and a half later on April 11, also at The Phoenix. Their new record Beat The Devil’s Tattoo is out March 29.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre have set a February 23 release date for their new record Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? and will be at The Phoenix on June 2 to support.