Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
Now I remember why I try to get show reviews done as soon as possible – my memory’s not what it used to be. I remember Sunday night, I was at the Phoenix. There were some bands. They played. People applauded. Some danced in place.
More specifically. First up was Baltimoran Benjy Ferree (not to be confused with Baltimora), whose Leaving The Nest I gave thoughts on a little while back – generally positive, but not much of an impression left. His live show did better, starting off in an orchestral-folk vibe but rapidly ramping up to a rollicking rock crescendo in the span of barely 25 minutes.
The Delgados always had a loyal following in Toronto so it’s a bit unfortunate that Emma Pollock would make her solo debut opening up for another act rather than in front of her own audience. But on the strength of the songs from Watch The Fireworks, I’d like to think she made more than a few new fans. As I mentioned after seeing her at SxSW, it was good to see that she hadn’t gone the folky, singer-songwriter route in going it alone. She’s still very much writing rock songs though they did lack much of the quirks and idiosyncrasies that made Delgados records so unique. With a few exceptions, set closer “The Optimist” in particular, her new stuff is considerably more straightforward and while it’s all quite enjoyable – she hasn’t lost her distinct melodic sensibilities – it does make me miss The Delgados even more.
Though they’d already played Toronto twice this year, this was The New Pornographers’ first visit since the release of their latest album Challengers and the first to feature the full band, including Neko Case and Dan Bejar. Now having seen the Pornos both with and without these two, it goes without saying that they bring a lot to the band. Though perfectly capable with the core six members, Dan’s songs only really sound right with Dan singing them and as good as Kathryn Calder has been, there’s only one Neko.
Even with the whole gang along for the ride, the New Pornographers have never been what you’d call an outstanding live act – their strength is their amazing songs, not their showmanship and this performance was no exception. The band seemed curiously detached for the first half hour or so and certainly far less excited about being there than the audience. Even Case, normally so gregarious on her own, was unusually demure. At one point, while Bejar was trying to get a guitar strapped on, there was an extended silence that not one of the seven other members onstage saw fit to try and fill, opting instead to stand there and avoid making eye contact with 1000 people. Very odd. It was as if they hoped that the big flashing “New Pornographers” marquee backdropping the stage would compensate.
But to be fair, the band was there to play, not chat, and eventually they did warm things up both in terms of stage presence and song selection in back-loading the set with the older, peppier material. And as much fun as it is to hear “Electric Version” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno”, as well as see a progressively drunker Dan Bejar stagger up to the mic for his numbers, the highlight for me was one of the slower numbers from Challengers. The harmonies between Carl Newman, Case and Calder on “Adventures In Solitude” were stunning but even more impressive was Calder’s solo performance on the bridges. Since she joined the band she’s been regarded largely as a Neko pinch-hitter but seeing her step up the mic and, for my money, provide the most memorable moment of the show. What I said earlier about there only being one Neko? Still true, but Calder’s proven that she’s not standing in her shadow anymore.
The show finished relatively strongly with “Letter From An Occupant” closing out the second encore, though it wasn’t quite enough to overcome the lethargic start and it evened out to a decent though not great show. Points, however, to whomever decided to bring up the house lights to the sounds of Olivia Newton-John’s “Xanadu”. I never get tired of hearing that. Seriously. The Pornos already have the big flashing sign, maybe next time they should bring roller skates.
eye, JAM and Chart also have reviews of the show while JAM, The Ottawa Citizen and Tonawonda News have conversations with Carl Newman. The Montreal Gazette and On Milwaukee have features on Emma Pollock.
Photos: The New Pornographers, Emma Pollock, Benjy Ferree @ The Phoenix – October 21, 2007
MP3: The New Pornographers – “My Rights Versus Yours”
MP3: The New Pornographers – “Myriad Harbour”
MP3: Emma Pollock – “Adrenaline”
MP3: Emma Pollock – “Limbs”
MP3: Benjy Ferree – “In The Countryside”
Video: The New Pornographers – “Challengers” (YouTube)
Video: Emma Pollock – “Adrenaline” (YouTube)
Video: Emma Pollock – “Acid Test” (YouTube)
Video: Benjy Ferree – “In The Countryside”
MySpace: The New Pornographers
MySpace: Emma Pollock
MySpace: Benjy Ferree
Soundscapes, Canada.com and Beat Route have interviews with The Besnard Lakes, whose debut Volume 1 was re-released in the US recently (yesterday?). The MP3 is not from that album. The video is.
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “For Agent 13″
Video: The Besnard Lakes – “The Spy Turned Musician” (MySpace)
Wireless Bollinger and UberDrivel interview Stars, whose three-night stand at the Phoenix from November 26 to 28 was just expanded to four with the addition of a show on the 29th, on sale tomorrow. Miracle Fortress is slated to open on the show on the 27th and I Heart Music has got their recent Halifax Pop Explosion performance MP3-ified for your enjoyment, via the CBC Radio 3 recording.
USA Today introduces its readers to Feist.
Rolf Klausener recounts the story of The Acorn to Beat Route. They’ll be at the Horseshoe on November 24.
The Good brothers talk to Harp about the process of making The Sadies’ latest album New Seasons. They also talk to Vue Weekly, The Tandem and The San Francisco Bay Guardian about the record. They’ve got a mini Toronto club crawl scheduled for the first weekend of November, playing Lee’s Palace on the 2nd and the Horseshoe on the 3rd.
Filter gets to know Tokyo Police Club.
Monday, July 16th, 2007
Sometimes I think I’m not only out of step with UK music, but living in a mirror universe. For example, Bloc Party’s first album was met with hosannas from everyone but only mild appreciation from me, but the follow-up was widely considered a big disappointment by most but not me – I love it. Similarly, Maximo Park’s sophomore effort Our Earthly Pleasures is doing middlingly at best, critically-speaking after their debut A Certain Trigger and even the b-sides companion volume Missing Songs were met with much more effusive praise. Needless to say, I like the new record much more than the first one.
I like how Paul Smith’s manic, cocksure attitude on the first record has been tempered a bit and maybe made a bit more desperately romantic. Musically things aren’t as constantly breakneck as they were but Maximo is just as adept at the slower numbers as the fast and for them, slow is a relative term – there are no piano ballads. For my money, everything that made Trigger appealing is present on Pleasures along with so much more. To everyone grousing that the new record isn’t as good as the first, it’s called growth – put on “Our Velocity” and tell me it’s not a good thing. But just in case anyone was afraid that this maturity thing would dampen their live show, fear not. I’d never seen Maximo live before but I don’t think it’d have been physically possible for them to have been more energetic in the past for Smith would surely have spontaneously combusted long ago.
Support for this tour were Los Angeles’ Monsters Are Waiting, who I’d seen at the past two SxSWs. While this was the best setting of the three, previous experiences being early afternoon sets to near-empty bars, I still felt a bit bad for the band, always having to win over an audience from scratch. And it’s not that they don’t have the goods to do so – I quite like their theatrically bipolar new wave synth-pop and Annalee Fery is a sexy and charismatic frontwoman – but I’ll bet that in front of a hometown crowd or even one with a decent number of proper fans, they’re excellent live. In Toronto they were merely pretty good, never quite getting into high gear, but still got a warm response from the audience. The couple of new songs showcased sounded really good as well, leaning more towards the power pop end of their debut Fascination rather than the twitchy.
Due to curfew – the Mod Club had to get the dance club contingent in by 10PM – Maximo Park was given just over an hour to work their magic to the sold out club but they made the most of it, cramming 16 songs into their set as well as a good number Paul Smith leaps off the drum riser and a few scissor kicks for good measure. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a frontman with as much energy as Smith – the man was a non-stop dynamo, bounding around the stage and alternately treating the mic stand like a forbidden lover, mortal enemy or lightsabre, whipping the crowd into a frenzy but (thankfully) never preening or coming off as attention-needy. He was simply there with a bowler hat full of rock to dole out and by god, he was going to dole it.
The rest of the band was quite content to lay back and let Smith take the spotlight, opting to concentrate on churning out the super-tight and tightly-wound jangle rock that kept Smith hopping through a set that was heavily weighted towards Pleasures (nine of fifteen songs total). Keyboardist Lukas Wooller physically got into it a little more than his bandmates but for all intents and purposes, the show belonged to Smith and so did the crowd. Particularly the ladies, judging from the shrieking, and I can’t say as I blame them – when that British mojo gets working, it’s something to behold. Throw in the bowler hat and it’s game over.
The band talked to The National Post about getting pelted onstage with beer, shoes and soccer jerseys. Lovingly, of course. The tour, of which Toronto was the fourth show, continues through the end of the month. See them.
Photos: Maximo Park, Monsters Are Waiting @ The Mod Club – July 14, 2007
MP3: Monsters Are Waiting – “Nobody”
MP3: Monsters Are Waiting – “Christine”
Video: Maximo Park – “Our Velocity” (YouTube)
Video: Maximo Park – “Books From Boxes” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Ha Ha” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Nobody” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Last Goodbye” (YouTube)
Video: Monsters Are Waiting – “Fascination” (YouTube)
MySpace: Maximo Park
MySpace: Monsters Are Waiting
Backtracking to Bloc Party (was talking about them earlier, wot), they recorded an acoustic session for Spinner’s Interface which you can watch and download while Vice also has some acoustic tracks available to grab from a session for Boston’s FNX back in May. There’s also a new video available for “The Prayer”. Bloc Party are in town September 28 at Ricoh Coliseum.
MP3: Bloc Party – “I Still Remember” (acoustic)
MP3: Bloc Party – “Sunday” (acoustic)
Video: Bloc Party – “The Prayer” (YouTube)
In exchange for the cover of their new issue, Interpol gives Chart a song-by-song breakdown of Our Love To Admire.
Concert news – The Noisettes have a date at Lee’s Palace September 19, Voxtrot are back in town on the 9th of October for a show at the Mod Club, French electronic duo Justice are at the Republik in the heart of clubland on October 18 and Pitchfork has the The New Pornographers at the Phoenix on October 21 rather than the 20th, thus clearing up the conflict with Do Make Say Think. They also have Benjy Ferree opening up along with Emma Pollock.
The Daily Show‘s Rob Corddry annotates his life in music for Filter.