Frank YangIs it possible for a band to steal their own show? It is when you’re far more interested in the support act than the headliner, as I was Wednesday night at The Horseshoe. I had already planned to attend even when it was just Brighton, UK’s Blood Red Shoes on the bill – I liked their two albums, including their latest and first North American release Fire Like This, well enough – but when Sky Larkin were announced as support, well it became an absolute must-see.
I had loved the Leeds trio’s 2009 debut The Golden Spike and rate this year’s follow-up Kaleide only slightly behind it, though at only a few months old it’s got lots of time to curry more favour. The difference between the two is really just degrees, as both are packed with wiry, spiky pop whose melodic qualities make them immediate and yet whose quirkiness allows them to continue to grow and unfold with repeated listens. And while these traits are very much in evidence in the live setting, what you notice most about the band on stage is just how much fun they’re having and how effortless they make it all seem.
When they’re playing, you just have to watch frontwoman Katie Harkin and how she seems at one with her guitar whilst dancing, hopping and swaying around the stage without missing a beat or note, or maybe drummer Nestor Matthews as he gives some epic drummer face while punishing his kit for some heinous transgressions. And between songs, their bantering with the audience and each other was just as entertaining – bassist Doug Adams may have been generally more placid on stage than his bandmates, but he did offer some choice words about Toronto’s new mayor-elect (“I’ve been reading about this Rob Ford guy – he’s an asshole!”). Their set didn’t crackle quite and fiercely as their visit to the Cameron Houe down the street a year and a day earlier, but it was still plenty great and Matthews got to celebrate his birthday without bleeding all over his kit.
So even before the headliners even set foot on stage, the night was deemed a success but even if, on paper, you preferred Sky Larkin’s more classically indie guitar-pop, there wasn’t going to be any resisting of Blood Red Shoes’ blunt instrument, ’90s alt rock-saluting attack. With Laura-Mary Carter on guitar, Steven Ansell on drums and both on vocals, their musical approach may have been less nuanced than their openers, but they understood the effectiveness of coming on strong and not letting up for a moment. And so it was that their relentless set focused on the most aggressive moments of Fire Like This and their debut Box Of Secrets and the permutations of their simple musical recipe – thick riffs and spidery lines from Carter’s Telecaster and steady, heavy rhythms from Ansell’s kit. On record, the balance of the vocals seems to favour Ansell, his hollers coming across more forcefully than Carter’s dulcet singing style, but live, it was much more evenly split and it was for the better. There may have only the two of them but they roared like a much larger band and in response, the smallish but enthusiastic audience cheered like a packed stadium. Go for the Sky Larkin, stay for the Blood Red Shoes, leave dazed and satisfied.
The Valley Star, Georgia Straight and San Francisco Examiner have features on Blood Red Shoes.
Photos: Blood Red Shoes, Sky Larkin @ The Horseshoe – October 27, 2010
MP3: Blood Red Shoes – “Light It Up”
MP3: Sky Larkin – “Kaleide”
MP3: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Heartsink”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Don’t Ask”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Colours Fade”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “This Is Not For You”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Say Something, Say Anything”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “I Wish I Was Someone Better”
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “It’s Getting Boring By The Sea”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Still Windmills”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Antibodies”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Beeline”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Fossil, I”
Video: Sky Larkin – “Molten”
Video: Sky Larkin – “One Of Two”
MySpace: Blood Red Shoes
MySpace: Sky Larkin
Interview talks to Elly Jackson of La Roux.
Clash and Dallas Voice have feature interviews with Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.
Prefix has an interview with The Drums, who’ve just released a new video from their self-titled debut.
Video: The Drums – “Me & The Moon”
The Daily Iowan and Interview discover Phantogram.
The Walrus and Consequence Of Sound catch up with Liz Phair, who tries to explain every song on her mostly awful new record Funstyle to New York Magazine.
The Lissie show originally scheduled for last Tuesday and then cancelled when she lost her voice has now been rescheduled for January 18 of next year, but moved from the relatively cozy confines of the El Mocambo to the more spacious Opera House. Tickets for the new show are $15 and tickets for the old one will still be honoured.
MP3: Lissie – “Everywhere I Go”
New York Magazine gets some choice words from Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields. Strange Powers, the documentary on Merritt and his music, opens in Toronto next Thursday.