Friday, October 7th, 2011
Ladytron and VHS Or Beta at The Phoenix in Toronto
Frank YangIn discussing Ladytron’s latest effort Gravity The Seducer, I mentioned how the Liverpool band had managed to pull off the difficult move of shifting creative course sufficiently to earn a fresh listen from those who figured they knew what to expect without abandoning their signature sound and alienating those who were perfectly happy to get what they were expecting from a new Ladytron record. Whether they’d manage to do the same with regards to their live show would be seen this past Wednesday night, when they came back to Toronto for the first time since either the release of Gravity or their decade-marking Best Of.
This isn’t to suggest their live reputation required any reputation. Granted, the idea that live, they just stand stock still and play keyboards has followed them around since their inception – I’m as guilty of perpetuating the perception as anyone despite knowing better from having seen them on their last two visits in 2008 and 2009 – but the truth is they actually put on very good live shows, offering impressive lightshows and great sound in lieu of on-stage antics. And of course they stand there. They play keyboards. Do you really want to see them strap on keytars? No you do not.
Warming up for them on this leg of the tour was New York dance veterans VHS OR Beta, who themselves have been at it long enough that once upon a time their name had some retro cleverness rather than just being meaningless to today’s youth (maybe they should consider switching to BluRay or HDDVD. Or not). In any case, their bass-heavy, straightforward synth-rock didn’t make a lot of arguments that you’d want to be remembering their name for long after the show. It wasn’t that they were bad by any means, just unremarkable. But perhaps it’s unfair to criticize them for being lyrically vague or bland when their mandate isn’t to offer deep insights into the human condition but simply to get people moving. And that they did.
Another point in my review of Gravity The Seducer was how it seemed that Helen Marnie was assuming more the de facto frontwoman role, with fewer lead contributions than Mira Aroyo; I don’t necessarily have quantitative proof that that was the case but it also certainly seemed that the live dynamic had shifted that way, if not moreso. While her bandmates were dressed in trademark black (and Reuben Wu in a Ladytron t-shirt though I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that it was laundry day), Marnie stood out in a shiny white top and giant bow in her hair – it would be hard not to be the centre of attention looking like that, never mind her dancing and swaying throughout the show. And while Aroyo’s lead contributions were fewer – she only took lead on two songs, the first almost halfway into the set – they seemed extra effective in accenting the darker side of their sound, compared to Marnie’s more wide-eyed vocal stylings.
Though the pyramid-referencing stage dressing implied this was the Gravity The Seducer tour, the setlist felt more appropriate to the singles collection with the new material not receiving any greater focus than the old with Witching Hour being drawn from the most. And while I quite like Gravity, I readily admit that its gentler textures wouldn’t have made for nearly as impactful a live set as their back catalog. Thankfully free of the sound issues that marred their last show, Ladytron sounded heavier and more determined than I’ve seen them. I don’t know that you could say their fanbase has necessarily grown over their long run – they’ve been playing The Phoenix as long as I can recall – they’ve remained steady and devoted and based on the sample group in my immediate vicinity, are still energized enough by the band to be able to jump up and down for over an hour straight. Any band at it for over a decade should be so lucky.
Photos: Ladytron, VHS Or Beta @ The Phoenix – October 5, 2011
MP3: Ladytron – “White Elephant”
MP3: Ladytron – “Ace Of Hz”
MP3: Ladytron – “Black Cat”
MP3: Ladytron – “Open Your Heart”
MP3: Ladytron – “Play Girl”
MP3: Ladytron – “Seventeen”
MP3: VHS Or Beta – “I Found A Reason”
MP3: VHS Or Beta – “I Found A Reason”
Video: Ladytron – “White Elephant”
Video: Ladytron – “Ace Of Hz”
Video: Ladytron – “Runaway”
Video: Ladytron – “Ghosts”
Video: Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch”
Video: Ladytron – “Sugar”
Video: Ladytron – “Evil”
Video: Ladytron – “Blue Jeans”
Video: Ladytron – “Seventeen”
Video: Ladytron – “Play Girl”
Video: VHS Or Beta – “Breaking Bones”
Video: VHS Or Beta – “You Got Me”
Video: VHS Or Beta – “Night On Fire”
Video: VHS Or Beta – “Can’t Believe A Single Word”
JAM talks to Portishead in advance of their two-night stand at The Sound Academy this coming Sunday and Monday while Stereogum finds out how advance work on album number four is coming. They also just announced they’ll be releasing 2009’s “Chase The Tear” as a 12″ single with proceeds going to Amnesty International on November 14.
Video: The Vaccines – “Wetsuit”
Noel Gallagher takes Spin for a guided tour of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, out November 8, and talks to The Quietus about going solo. He has two nights slated at Massey Hall, November 7 and 8. And oh new video.
The Twilight Sad are offering the first official single from album number three, No One Can Ever Know, well before it’s released in February.
Stream: The Twilight Sad – “Sick”
Though originally targeted for a domestic release in 2012, The Jezabels have announced a November 8 Canadian release for their debut Prisoner, which only makes sense – they’re opening up for Hey Rosetta! across the country this Fall including November 23 and 24 at The Phoenix. Really ought to have something to sell.
NOW has put Bjork on this week’s cover on the occasion of Biophilia‘s release next week, but Drowned in Sound has topped them with a week-long, five-part feature on the Icelandic icon. And NPR wins because they’re streaming the whole album.