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Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Valhalla Dancehall

British Sea Power and A Classic Education at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFor the first few years of their existence, the British Sea Power live experience had a reputation as something of a spectacle, thanks to their habit of decorating the stage with local foliage and then-keyboardist Eamon Hamilton’s on-stage shenanigans – both of which were in full effect the last time I saw them play a regular-type show in Toronto, way back in May 2005. Both times I’ve seen them since then – a SxSW day show and television taping – weren’t necessarily conducive to indulging in madness though since Hamilton’s departure in early 2006 the bedlam had been toned down somewhat anyways. So it’s a good thing that their records since then – 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music? and this year’s Valhalla Dancehall have easily been solid enough to warrant hearing live even if the band just stood stock still and played, though thankfully they did not.

Though I’d corresponded with A Classic Education frontman Jon Clancy for some years and despite Clancy being an Ontario ex-pat now based in Bologna, Italy, this was the first time they’d made it to Toronto. Probably on account of the fact that they’re based in Bologna, Italy. But I’d managed to see them a couple years ago at SxSW and was impressed with the scope of their musical vision, even if I didn’t think their grasp quite matched their reach yet. Interestingly, in the time since them they’ve seemingly adjusted course to point towards a simpler, more ’50s-influenced style of rock and while their scope still retains some of that grandness, mostly thanks to sophisticated little flourishes in the arrangements, but the delivery is more compact and streamlined and the net result actually suits them better. Interestingly, for as long as they’ve been around there’s still not been a full-length release – their last issue was the Hey There Stranger 12″ EP last year. Hopefully that gets rectified soon.

British Sea Power has certainly grown, both in size and maturity. To the former, multi-instrumentalist Phil Sumner and violinist Abi Fry are now apparently full-fledged band members and to the latter, well they simply don’t get up to the tricks they used to (see above). It’s as though their gawky acting act has transmuted into a sort of stateliness, and accordingly they’re not in any rush to get where they’re going – they know it’ll get there eventually. Which is why it’s sort of alright that the show, like the last couple I’d seen, seemed to start off a bit slowly despite opening with a couple of Valhalla‘s more hopped-up numbers, though the fact that Hamilton had lost his voice and couldn’t take lead on some of the songs as he normally did might have had something to do with it as well.

Still, by the time they hit the Valhalla-era non-album track “Zeus”, they were clearly warmed up. The epic-length track was played with extra vigor and from there on, the second half of the show came with loads more drive than the first – thanks, no doubt, to the inclusion of ragers such as “Spirit Of St. Louis”, “It Ended On An Oily Stage” and “Lights Out For Darker Skies”. The four-song encore brought some dynamics back into it, pairing the anthemic “Waving Flags” and “Carrion” with the more elegiac “The Great Skua” and “All In It”, but the real highlight came with the second encore which revived some of the old-school on-stage anarchy soundtracked by “Apologies To Insect Life”. Antics included but were not limited to Yan giving local “super-fan” Kayvon a ride on his shoulders before doing a reverse double stage dive into the crowd – I hope Kavon was warned of it beforehand – and Noble, who had apparently hit a critical point of inebriation, going for a crowd surf after the song had ended in order to get to the bar as quickly as possible. Okay, maybe British Sea Power haven’t matured that much. Thank goodness.

BBC America has an interview with Martin Noble and NYC Taper is sharing a recording of the New York stop on this tour.

Photos: British Sea Power, A Classic Education @ Lee’s Palace – March 24, 2011
MP3: British Sea Power – “Who’s In Control?”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Living Is So Easy”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Zeus”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Come Wander With Me”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Atom”
MP3: British Sea Power – “Please Stand Up”
MP3: A Classic Education – “Gone To Sea”
MP3: A Classic Education – “I Lost Time”
MP3: A Classic Education – “Toi”
MP3: A Classic Education – “Stay, Son”
Video: British Sea Power – “Who’s In Control”
Video: British Sea Power – “Living Is So Easy”
Video: British Sea Power – “Waving Flags”
Video: British Sea Power – “No Lucifer”
Video: British Sea Power – “Water Tower”
Video: British Sea Power – “Please Stand Up”
Video: British Sea Power – “It Ended On An Oily Stage”
Video: British Sea Power – “Childhood Memories”
Video: British Sea Power – “The Spirit Of St. Louis”
Video: British Sea Power – “Carrion”
Video: British Sea Power – “Remember Me”
Video: A Classic Education – “Gone To Sea”
Video: A Classic Education – “Toi”

Clearly I’m being punished for going to Euro at the end of May. How else to explain the number of excellent tours coming through town while I’m away, which now include 2010 year-end listers Stornoway, who are bringing Beachcomber’s Windowsill back to North America and specifically the El Mocambo, where they dazzled last December, on May 24. Tickets $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Stornoway – “Zorbing”

But the one that really hurts is that Anna Calvi has made good on her promise to make up all the March dates cancelled because of her wrist injury, and the make-up date for Toronto will be May 27, also at the El Mocambo. Funny how I went from potentially seeing her a good number of times across CMW and SxSW to not at all… though it is some consolation that while she’s soundchecking a 10-minute walk from my apartment, I’ll be on the shores of the Mediterranean listening to Pulp. Under The Radar has full tour dates and tickets for the Toronto show are $12 in advance. Paste has an interview and Calvi has just released a new video.

MP3: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”

PJ Harvey has released a couple more videos from Let England Shake. Spinner has an interview with Polly Jean.

Video: PJ Harvey – “England”
Video: PJ Harvey – “The Colour Of The Earth”

It’s session time for Two Door Cinema Club as NPR has them visit The World Cafe and Daytrotter has a set available to download.

Daytrotter has also posted up a session with The Futureheads.

State talks to Rab Allan and Herald Scotland to James Allan of Glasvegas about their new record Euphoric Heartbreak, out next week.

Sons & Daughters have announced their new record Mirror, Mirror will be out on June 14, and based on the first MP3 made available, they’ve gotten as far as possible from the shiny glam of 2008’s This Gift. The Line Of Best Fit has details on the release.

MP3: Sons & Daughters – “Silver Spell”

The Guardian, Gigwise and Metro talk to Patrick Wolf about his new record Lupercalia, due out May 31.

Spin finds out the origins of The Joy Formidable’s name while The Asbury Park Press have an interview and NPR is streaming one of their SxSW sets. They are at The Horseshoe this coming Saturday night, April 2.

The Guardian has a feature piece on Adele, while NPR is streaming a World Cafe session. A couple people in the last few days have asked me how they might go about getting tickets to her May 18 show at the Kool Haus. It made me laugh. Update: And now who’s laughing? The show was just moved to the Air Canada Centre. It it’s a full arena setup, that’s like an eightfold increase in capacity. Even the theatre configuration is like two and a half times the Kool Haus.

Friendly Fires have confirmed a May 16 release date for their second album Pala; Ed Macfarlane speaks briefly to Purple Revolver about the writing process. They play The Phoenix on May 30.

Exclaim has an interview with Liam Gallagher of Beady Eye, who’ve managed to sell out their show at the Sound Academy on June 20. You know they’re not playing any Oasis material, right? No matter how much you plead? Okay, just checking.

DIY, Billboard and BBC talk to Elbow and learn that the band have plans for North American touring later this year (yes!) and collaborator Richard Hawley is currently in the studio working on a new record (yes!).

Brett Anderson of Suede tells NME that the reunited band is working on new material but that it won’t necessarily translate into new recordings.

Radiohead’s new record The King Of Limbs is now streaming in whole at Spinner. They will also be releasing a limited edition 12″ single for Record Store Day, April 16, featuring non-album tracks “Supercollider” and “The Butcher”.

Stream: Radiohead / The King Of Limbs

Clash checks in with Charles Watson of Slow Club about how work is progressing on the duo’s second album.

The Georgia Straight interviews Esben & The Witch.

Spinner talks to Reuben Wu and Clash to Mira Aroyo of Ladytron.

The Quietus profiles Cat’s Eyes, the new project from Faris Badwan of The Horrors and opera singer Rachel Zeffira. Their self-titled debut is due out April 25.

NPR interviews Lykke Li, who is at The Phoenix on May 22. A new track from Wounded Rhymes is available to download.

MP3: Lykke Li – “Youth Knows No Pain”

Clash, Spin and DIY have features on Peter Bjorn & John, whose new record Gimme Some is out now and available to stream. They’re at Lee’s Palace on May 6.

Stream: Peter Bjorn & John / Gimme Some

By : Frank Yang at 8:20 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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  1. Bruce says:

    Looks like your backlog of reports/reviews has finally been caught up, congrats!

    BSP did not disappoint, superb as always! I did miss a couple of Hamilton’s tunes, but I think we were amply compensated. One hope, though was that they’d do Heavy Water (I agree it’s a standout on the latest disc) but hadn’t seen it on setlists from the first couple of shows on this tour, so hope was faint. Maybe if there’s a return swing through town?

    Speaking of which – more Stornoway!

    FYI, Warpaint turned in an amazing performance at Wrongbar on Saturday.