Monday, February 15th, 2010
The Street Noise Gives You Away
Woodpigeon and Betty Burke at The Drake Underground in Toronto
Frank YangI don’t really want to have to quote myself, but I kind of have to point to my writeup of Woodpigeon’s last visit to Toronto for NXNE 2009 to reinforce the fact that in all the times I’ve seen them perform – four or five as of this show – it has been an almost completely different band and/or configuration and as such, a markedly different personality. The one constant, of course, is singer-songwriter-bandleader Mark Hamilton – and while you’d think that his gleaming, folk-pop compositions would be another thing you could count on, this show proved that they’re not nearly as immutable as you might think.
Support for this show and many of the others on this eastern Canadian jaunt came from Betty Burke, whose name might be new but whose face is familiar to Toronto. Fronted by Maggie MacDonald, recognizable from countless local bands and art projects over the years but mainly known as one of the longest-serving Hidden Cameras, I’m sure there was a complex artistic-cultural mandate behind the project but to my ears, they cultivated a pretty straight country-rockish vibe highlighted by the vocal interplay between MacDonald and guitarist Holly Andruchuk and MacDonald’s between/during-song banter.
I’m rather used to Woodpigeon sounding louder and rockier live than on record – I actually prefer it that way, being able to enjoy the delicate nuances of their music in the comfort of home and the more dynamic versions in the clubs. That said, I was still surprised by how this current lineup of the band rendered the material from Die Stadt Muzikanten and Treasury Library Canada. That they’d do things louder was kind of a foregone conclusion, but rather than simply rearranged, some songs were completely re-imagined. Most notably, the keyboards were tapped to handle some key guitar parts, resulting in “Denial In Argyle” being given a swinging, New Wave-y vibe and “Piano Pieces For Adult Beginners” being transformed into a pretty convincing rendition of sixties-ish psych-rock. Kind of hard to imagine, but there they were.
The price of doing things in an all-new way, however, was paid with precision. I couldn’t say how long this particular configuration of the band had been playing together, but it was clear some gelling was still needed before this could be considered a really cohesive unit. There wasn’t anything really specific that was off, just a sense that they could – and hopefully would – sound better as the tour progressed. On the second night of the road trip, some slop was probably to be expected. By the same token, the guest appearance from Gentleman Reg to cover Jamie Fooks’ parts on the duet “Our Love Is As Tall As The Calgary Tower” wasn’t as sublime as it probably should have been, with Reg appearing to have some difficulty hearing himself. But considering that without him, we probably wouldn’t have heard the song at all, I’ll take it. And that largely went for the show – considering how infrequently they make it over to this part of the country, slightly imperfect Woodpigeon is better than none at all.
The Whig-Standard talks to Woodpigeon’s Mark Hamilton.
Photos: Woodpigeon, Betty Burke @ The Drake Underground – February 11, 2010
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Empty-Hall Sing-Along”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Morningside” (live)
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Knock Knock”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “A Moment’s Peace For Mary Christa O’Keefe”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Love In The Time Of Hopscotch”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Oberkampf”
MP3: Woodpigeon – “Lay All Your Love On Me”
Video: Woodpigeon – “A Moment’s Peace for Mary Christa O’Keefe”
Video: Woodpigeon – “…A Given”
Video: Woodpigeon – “Home as a Romanticized Concept Where Everyone Loves You Always and Forever”
MySpace: Betty Burke
PitchforkTV has the debut of the new video of their favourite Torontonian electro-pop act, Diamond Rings. He’s got two Canadian Musicfest shows coming up – March 11 at The Garrison and March 12 at The Silver Dollar.
And yes, I did indeed miss every single night of Wavelength 500 – real life won out. But the celebrations sounded epic – check out BlogTO for coverage – so I guess I’ll just say congratulations, farewell and hopefully see you soon.