Monday, August 16th, 2010
Forest City Lovers, Gentleman Reg and Carmen Elle at The Great Hall in Toronto
Frank YangThough I’d seen Forest City Lovers a few times in the past year while their new record Carriage was being written, I can’t say as though I remember (m)any of the new songs being aired out live before being committed to tape; perhaps all the more reason that I was bowled over by just how good the new album is when I finally got to hear the finished product a couple months ago.
And that was also part of the motivation to head down to the Great Hall on Thursday night for their homecoming record release show, capping a tour that took them to the west coast of Canada and back. Better judgement suggested that staying in and resting up in the middle of a very busy week would be the smarter course of action, but I wanted to hear these new songs live and there would be time for sleep later. And the hall. It’s great.
For support, they enlisted a couple of noteworthy locals – one already so and the other well on her way. The latter was Carmen Elle, whom I’d seen back in 2006 and even then, at age 17, she was already a remarkable singer, guitarist and performer. Checking in three and a half years later, she’s even better. This time instead of a full band, it was her and a drummer and the economical arrangements allowed her smoky vocals and impressive guitar chops to come to the fore. The material struck the right balance between simple and sophisticated with plenty of great melodies and just enough rock action. She mentioned that they were debating band names so looking for Carmen Elle records might not yield the desired results – I’m not even sure there are any yet – but any project with her associated with it, like her other band Donlands & Mortimer, is worth taking note of.
Pop-smith Gentleman Reg has been doing his thing for well on a decade now, but has gone through periods of both ubiquity and extended absence. The release of last year’s Jet Black and its companion Heavy Head EP marked a period of the former over the past year, with numerous shows including a month-long Drake Underground residency, but partway through their set Reg Vermue mentioned that this might be their last show for a while, implying that a break was in order. And if so, they bowed out on a high note – I’ve seen Reg play in a variety of configurations and with different people, and this lineup really seemed to compliment him and his songs best, particularly the female harmonies offered by drummer Dana Snell and keyboardist Kelly McMichael. McMichael, in particular, shone on their unexpected cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy”, taking the chorus while Reg handled the verses.
In the past, Forest City Lovers have always given their songs an extra kick in a live setting, building on their albums’ understated charms with the contributions of new and extra players. With Carriage, they’ve brought that ethos into the studio resulting in their liveliest and most varied record yet but on stage, they sounded a bit tentative on the new material as though they still weren’t fully comfortable with playing them live. This isn’t to say they didn’t play them well, not at all, but the extra gear that I was used to them finding wasn’t quite there for the Carriage material. And it wasn’t an off night for them either, as the older material did find that next level and net, they put on a pretty great show in what I think was their largest room to date, the core lineup bolstered by keys and a second violin. Carriage should be their breakthrough record and I’m certain that next time I catch them live, it’ll all sound equally grand.
View has a feature profile on Forest City Lovers.
Photos: Forest City Lovers, Gentleman Reg, Carmen Elle @ The Great Hall – August 12, 2010
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Light You Up”
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “If I Were A Tree”
MP3: Gentleman Reg – “We’re In A Thunderstorm”
MP3: Gentleman Reg – “Plan On Including Me”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “If I Were A Tree”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Pirates”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Song For Morrie”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Please, Don’t Go”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “How We Exit”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “Rewind”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “We’re In A Thunderstorm”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “Over My Head”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “Boyfriend Song”
MySpace: Forest City Lovers
MySpace: Gentleman Reg
And since I get the sense that you guys like winning stuff, check out this contest to win a trip to the Polaris Music Prize gala on September 20 at the Masonic Temple in Toronto. You know, I see nothing in the rules and regulations that stipulates that Polaris jurors can’t enter. Of course, I couldn’t use the flight since I live down the street from the hall, but maybe I could trade that for a pedicab. Or a piggyback ride.