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Posts Tagged ‘A Classic Education’

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

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

SxSW 2009 A/V – A Classic Education

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangA Classic Education
Bologna, Italy

Canadian-fronted Italian rock band with an expansive sound, one EP released and at work on their debut album
Show review
– interview at The 405

Photos: A Classic Education @ Rusty Spurs – March 19, 2009
MP3: A Classic Education – “Stay, Son”
MP3: A Classic Education – “Toi”
Video: A Classic Education – “Toi”
MySpace: A Classic Education

Friday, March 20th, 2009

SxSW 2009 Night Two

The Rural Alberta Advantage, Little Boots and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhen I arrived at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church on Thursday night, the lines to get in were already folded on themselves several times over and spilling out onto the sidewalk. I’d have liked to think that they were all there to see The Rural Alberta Advantage like I was, but most were probably looking for a good seat to see Grizzly Bear.

Both opening bands should have thanked eMusic profusely for arranging the bill as they did, and basically giving two unknown acts an opportunity to impress a packed house of Grizzly Bear fans. First up were San Francisco’s Girls, who failed to make much of an impression. Their jangle-with-a-touch-of-psychedelia pop was decent enough, but really not anything that hadn’t been done many times before and better. Shrug-worthy.

I realize I’m pretty biased about The RAA on account of how much I love the band, but I think I am stating an impartial fact when I declare that for their debut SxSW showcase, they absolutely killed. It took me a little bit to adjust to hearing Nils Edenloff’s vocals, so strained and dry on record, echoing in the church acoustics but it really did give chills. Indeed, Paul Banwatt’s thunderous drumming and Amy Cole’s marvelous harmonies never sounded better – talk about presenting a band in their very best light. I’ve always believed that the only thing you need to make someone love the RAA is to have them hear them play and I cannot believe that wasn’t the case for everyone in attendance last night – the huge, absolutely huge response they got when they came down from the stage and into the centre of the church for their “Good Night Song” did not lie. Nor did the person I overheard leaving, saying “that may have been the greatest thing I’ve ever seen”. It sounds impossible, but the Rural Alberta Advantage gave Grizzly Bear a tough act to follow. A staggering performance.

I could have happily ended the night there, but that’d have been a waste of an evening so I after leaving the church (and making one Grizzly Bear fan waiting anxiously in line very happy), I hopped over to Rusty Spurs to see Italian-Canadian’s A Classic Education. I reviewed their debut EP last year but was quite surprised to see how far they’d come since then – the six-piece band on stage was quite confident and assured, and more than capable of creating stirring, epic-scale sounds. But having said that, I found that my initial criticisms that they didn’t sound fully realized somehow, still held – though less so. The newer material sounded good but it also sounded like they were reaching for something still just a bit out of reach – but with time, I expect they grab hold and do so firmly, and when they do, it’ll be something to behold.

At this point there was a break in my schedule during which I opted to head to the venue for the evening’s Playboy party, for which I had a precious invite. Now to be honest, I didn’t really want to go – Jane’s Addiction holds no kind of appeal for me – but I figured that I should at least give myself the option. Or someone else, since the registration guy opted to just hand me my admission wristband rather than put it on me and make it non-transferable. It’s here that I considered just walking down 6th Street, offering it up to the highest bidder but instead kept it handy in case I chose to go.

But whichever way I decided, it was still too early to go – doors weren’t open for another hour – so it was back into the scrum to find something to see. Chairlift were running way behind so after conferring with Kyle from More Cowbell for a bit, I opted to hit Emo’s Annex to see Little Boots, on account of her being an artist of no small amount of buzz, to say nothing of the fact that I was right in front of the venue and there was no lineup.

Before Ms Boots were peculiarly-named Danes The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, who near as I could tell played danceable funk-soul with a distinct Scandinavian iciness, an interesting mix though I was a bit more preoccupied with trying to assess just how heinous this show would be to photograph – a venue as large as Emo’s Annex really should do better than two red floodlights.

It occurred to me just before Little Boots came on that the things I knew about her – formerly of Dead Disco, plays a Tenari-On and styolophone onstage and is given to doing dancey covers and remixes – but didn’t really know what her own material, was like. Answer? Catchy electro-dance pop, no big surprise there, but what was somewhat surprising was how full-on diva (in the good sense of the word) Victoria Hesketh was. Resplendent in sheer strapless dress and impressive heels, there was no mitigating the glam for the indie masses – she danced, preened and worked the crowd like a pro, and the audience ate it up. I was going to say that this isn’t normally my sort of scene, but I seem to be developing an affiinity for the ’80s-retro synth stylings of late, so maybe it’s becoming my scene. Which is okay, because it’s rather a more attractive-looking scene than my usual one.

And speaking of attractive, I didn’t end up going to Playboy. Absolutely hit a wall before Little Boots’ set and barely managed to drag myself back to the hotel. My dogs, they were barking, and the bunnies were going to have to get by without me. Alas.