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Posts Tagged ‘Band Of Horses’

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Echo Locate

Swearin’ are tourin’ and comin’ to town

Photo By Lance NelsonLance NelsonI won’t presume to have any insight into the relationship between Crutchfield sisters Katie and Allison, but it’s hard to imagine there isn’t at least a little competitiveness between the twins since they disbanded P.S. Eliot, the band they were in together, back in 2011 and re-emerged fronting Waxahatchee out of Philadelphia and Swearin’ in Brooklyn, respectively.

And while Katie pulled well ahead in the critical acclaim department earlier this year with the electrified folk sounds of Cerulean Salt, Allison is making a late-year run with Surfing Strange – a heady, hyper, and hooky slice of melodic punk-rock fuzz that recalls the likes of early Superchunk. Two excellent records that are similar enough to be “RIYL” for one another, but different enough to not have to choose sides.

In the battle of who’s coming to play Toronto first, though, Swearin’ wins. Though both acts spent most of the year on the road criss-crossing America and Europe – often together – a local date for Waxahatchee still hasn’t come together. Swearin’, however, have just announced a Winter tour that will bring them and their tunes to the cozy Parkdale basement we like to call The Shop Under Parts & Labour on March 14; ticket info still forthcoming.

Stereogum has an interview with Swearin’ while The San Francisco Examiner and Dots & Dashes profile Waxahatchee, who also play a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR.

And also worth noting is Great Thunder, a new project that brings Waxahatchee and Swearin’ together, but not in the sisterly way – instead, it pairs Katie Crutchfield with Swearin’ bassist Keith Spencer (who also plays in her band and is her boyfriend). They’ll release a double album in Groovy Kinda Love on December 10 and you can stream it below. As for the Crutchfield sisters together, they covered Grimes for Rookie back in May.

Stream: Swearin’ – “Watered Down”
Video: Swearin’ – “Gold In The Dust Sack”
Stream: Great Thunder / Groovy Kinda Love
Stream: Katie & Allison Crutchfield – “Oblivion”

A whole pile of other shows were announced yesterday, starting with Phosphorescent, who are taking advantage of the fact that their latest album Muchacho is popping up on – and topping – no shortage of year-end lists and have announced more Winter dates; they’ll be at The Mod Club on February 1, tickets $17.50. The Guardian also has an interview with Matthew Houck.

MP3: Phosphorescent – “Song For Zula”

It’s a trans-generational dose of Austin psychedelia as The Black Angels, who released Indigo Meadow back in April, team up with 13th Floor Elevator mastermind Roky Erickson, whose last album was the 2010 Okkervil River collab True Love Cast Out All Evil, for a Winter tour that stops in at The Phoenix on February 11. Tickets for that are $27.50.

MP3: The Black Angels – “Telephone”
Stream: Roky Erickson – “I Walked With A Zombie”

New Jersey electro-artist/producer Com Truise has announced the February 18 release of a new mini-album entitled Wave 1 – stream one of the songs below – and a Winter tour that comes to Wrongbar on February 12. Exclaim has full dates and release details.

Stream: Com Truise – “Declination”

Band Of Horses are setting out on an acoustic tour to coincide with the February 11 release of their unplugged Acoustic At The Ryman set, and will be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 21, tickets $37.50 and $44.50 in advance.

MP3: Band Of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”

With their first new album in three years – Wig Out At Jagbags – ready for release on January 7, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks are hitting the road with Philadelphia’s Disappears and will be at Lee’s Palace on February 22, tickets $26.50.

MP3: Disappears – “New Fast”
Lyric Video: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Lariat”

Xiu Xiu released their Nina Simone covers record Nina this week – stream it at USA Today – and have put together some Spring dates to support it. Look for them at The Garrison on March 9, tickets $10.

Video: Xiu Xiu – “You’d Be So Nice”
Stream: Xiu Xiu / Nina

Shearwater – who cover Xiu Xiu on their own new covers record Fellow Travelers – have announced their tourmates for their upcoming tour: On March 27 at The Horseshoe, they’ll be joined by Death Vessel, who are finally releasing a follow-up to 2008’s Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us in Island Intervals on February 25 – and Jesca Hoop, whose The House That Jack Built came out last year. Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater penned piece about the covers album for The Talkhouse.

Video: Jesca Hoop – “Ode To Banksy”
Stream: Death Vessel – “Ilsa Drown”

The War On Drugs have come clean on their new album, entitled Lost In The Dream and out March 18. You can stream a new song below, read an interview with Adam Granduciel at The Line Of Best Fit, and make plans around their Spring tour dates which include April 14 at The Horseshoe and/or April 15 at Lee’s Palace; probably not both. The band’s own website and PR says 14th at The ‘Shoe, so let’s circle that one. Update: It’s the Horseshoe, April 14, tickets $16.50.

Stream: The War On Drugs – “Red Eyes”

NPR has a video session with Darkside, who’re at Lee’s Palace on January 15.

Details are still vague, but The Line of Best Fit reports that the new St. Vincent album will be out on February 25.

Pitchfork has details on a new record from Brooklyn’s The Men; the optimistically-titled Tomorrow’s Hits comes out March 4.

Rolling Stone gets insight into the new Drive-By Truckers record, entitled English Oceans and coming March 4.

With this Fall’s Emancipated Hearts expressly called a mini-album, it’s technically accurate to call Dean Wareham’s forthcoming self-titled, Jim James-produced full-length his solo debut. It’s out March 11 and Consequence Of Sound has specifics.

Stereogum points out that The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have quietly rolled out a video for the title track of 2011’s Belong, serving as a pointed reminder that we’re well overdue for new material from them.

Video: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Belong”

Kurt Vile chats with Tone Deaf, Houston Press, and FasterLouder, and reacts to being named one of GQ‘s “Men Of The Year”.

The 405 and Metro Active have interviews with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.

NPR has a Tiny Desk Concert and Daytrotter a “stand behind whatever piece of furniture you like” session with The Dismemberment Plan.

Drowned In Sound meets Local Natives.

The AV Club gets a little more information from The Walkmen about their “extreme hiatus”, which begins after their show in Philadelphia tonight.

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Heard The News

Guards, Mates Of State, and other support acts elevated to blog post headline status

Photo By Olivia MaloneOlivia MaloneSome weeks, the inbox is a veritable cornucopia of interesting concert announcements for acts big and small. Compiling the blog posts that collect those up is a genuine delight. And easy. Generally so easy. This was not one of those weeks. Indeed, most of the news was of the “support announced” variety, which isn’t necessarily uninteresting – sometimes it’s more interesting than the headliner – but it is less easy.

Anyways, we’ll kick off with New York’s Guards, who will be supporting Palma Violets at Lee’s Palace on May 3. They’re fronted by one Richie Follin, whose did time in Cults with sister Madelin and also worked with Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, and while either of those reference points are probably enough to garner attention, the sun-kissed, retro-styled power pop of their debut album In Guards We Trust, released in February, are far more in line with the former than the latter. It’s not revolutionary by any measure, but it is well-executed and likeable.

The Bay Bridged has an interview with Richie Follin.

MP3: Guards – “Silver Lining”
MP3: Guards – “Crystal Truth”
Video: Guards – “Ready To Go”
Video: Guards – “Silver Lining”

It’s a bit of an odd pairing, but throwback jangle-poppers DIIV will be supporting Trent Reznor’s How To Destroy Angels at The Sound Academy on April 25. They were also here in December supporting Japandroids, but I’m sure there’s enough fans of Oshin that a headlining show – which they last did in September – would also be welcome.

MP3: DIIV – “Sometime”

Not that Titus Andronicus need any help drawing a crowd, but their May 2 date at Lee’s Palace announced last week just got a boost regardless with the announcement that they’re being joined by Brooklyn’s So So Glos for what they’re calling the “Bring Back The Dudes” tour – which will be a pretty apt description of the demographic at the show. Their new record Blowout is out April 23 and there’s an interview at The L.

Video: So So Glos – “My Block”

Some bands worry about announcing multiple upcoming dates in a given market out of fear that one show may cannibalize ticket sales from the other; Ra Ra Riot clearly do not. They spent most of the lead up to their early March headlining show for Beta Love with their name also on posters for the Arts & Crafts Field Trip festival at Garrison Common on June 8, and now they’ve also announced that they’ll also be in town a couple weeks prior to that supporting The Shins at The Sound Academy on May 22. I don’t know if there are Ra Ra Riot fans so dedicated to hit up every one of their local shows, but if so, they’re probably pretty happy.

MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Beta Love”
MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Dance With Me”

Ra Ra Riot will also be opening up some of the dates on the upcoming Postal Service tour, but not Toronto – according to the itinerary released yesterday, we’ll have Mates Of State opening up at the Air Canada Centre on June 11 and that’s a-ok with me, though I can’t say I wouldn’t love to see peoples’ faces when Big Freedia shakes what she’s got on those west coast dates.

MP3: Mates Of State – “Maracas”
MP3: Mates Of State – “My Only Offer”

And in headlining announcements – Spencer Krug will appear as Moonface in a solo piano context on May 12 at The Great Hall in something called The Conversation Room. I don’t know what/where that is, but I kind of hope it’s like The Champagne Room. Tickets are $16.50 and there is probably no sex.

MP3: Moonface – “Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips”
MP3: Moonface – “Headed For The Door”

One of the buzzier bads at CMF this year were German electro-pop duo BOY, and those who missed out on their shows will be pleased to know they’re back in town at The Great Hall on May 16 in support of their debut Mutual Friend. Tickets for that are $17.50.

Video: BOY – “Little Numbers”

I could be wrong but I don’t think Richard Buckner has been to Toronto since the “two really big dudes with gravelly voices” tour with Eric Bachmann in September 2006. In any case, the upcoming release of Surrounded – about which there’s no other information besides that it exists and will be called Surrounded – will bring him back to The Horseshoe on May 23, tickets $13.50.

MP3: Richard Buckner – “Escape”

One of the unfortunate casualties of the canceled Efterklang show during CMF last month was the local debut of Philadelphia’s Nightlands, who were supposed to open up. They’ll make that show up at The Drake Underground on June 3, playing songs from their debut Oak Island, from which they’ve just released a new video. The Concordian also has an interview with band principal Dave Hartley.

MP3: Nightlands – “300 Clouds”
MP3: Nightlands – “Suzerain (A Letter To The Judge)”
Video: Nightlands – “Born To Love”

Brooklyn’s Yeasayer will circle back behind their third album Fragrant World with a show at The Phoenix on July 2.

MP3: Yeasayer – “Henrietta”
MP3: Yeasayer – “Longevity”

Two-tone legends The Specials are coming back to town, slating a July 9 date at The Kool Haus, tickets $39.50.

Video: The Specials – “Message To You Rudy”

“Edge” certainly doesn’t mean what it used to. Traditionally the region’s premier bro-fest, the CFNY-sponsored Edgefest has gone acoustic and plaid for 2013, taking advantage of Lollapalooza weekend to present a lineup headlined by The Lumineers and Band Of Horses at Downsview Park on July 31. Quite an about face from past editions of the festival, which has in the past been closed out by the likes of Billy Talent, A Perfect Circle, Stone Temple Pilots, and Our Lady Peace. Tickets for the day are $49.50 plus fees.

MP3: Band Of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”
Video: The Lumineers – “Hey Ho”

Okay, so as it turns out there was more announced this week than I thought. Elsewhere…

Philly.com talks to Redd Kross’ Steve McDonald, who will tear things up at The Horseshoe tomorrow night, April 11.

The Thermals are streaming their new super-short but super-intense new album Desperate Ground at Pitchfork before its out on Apri l6. They play The Horseshoe on May 21.

Stream: The Thermals / Desperate Ground

Another new track from Steve Earle’s Low Highway – out April 16 – has been made available to stream.

Stream: Steve Earle & The Dukes (and Duchesses) – “Calico County”

DIY talks to Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne ahead of next week’s release of The Terror.

Under The Radar interviews Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, in town at The Kool Haus on May 9.

NPR has a Mountain Stage session with Calexico, coming to Toronto for a NXNE show at the Mod Club on June 12.

Exclaim, The Village Voice, Pitchfork, and Consequence Of Sound all want to talk to Kurt Vile about his latest album Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze, out now. He plays the Toronto Urban Roots Fest at Garrison Common on July 7.

Lissie has rolled out a lyric video fro the first sample of her second album, due out this September.

Lyric Video: Lissie – “Shameless”

NPR has a World Cafe session with Caitlin Rose.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Echo Or Encore

Eleanor Friedberger leads this week’s batch of concert announcements

Photo By Roger KisbyRoger KisbyYou can probably blame the entire music industry’s post-SXSW hangover for this week’s roundup of concert announcements being a little late and a little lean. But there were still some. And here they are.

While I believe the official status of The Fiery Furnaces is that they’re a going concern, it’s pretty clear that the burner that they’re on is pretty far back. Since they finished touring 2009’s presciently-titled I’m Going Away, both Friedberger siblings have busied themselves in solo form. Matthew Friedberger released six full-lengths as part of his Solos series in 2011 and followed that with Matricidal Sons Of Bitches last Fall. Eleanor Friedberger, on the other hand, has worked at a relative snail’s pace, with only 2011’s Last Summer to her name, at least until now.

Her second solo venture will be out June 4 and entitled Personal Record, and while complete dates in support of it haven’t yet surfaced, it is confirmed that they’ll include a June 5 date at The Horseshoe, tickets $15 in advance. Exclaim has details on the record, for which there is a trailer and a first single to stream. You can also download a live version of the song, which was part of an Epitonic Saki Session a couple years ago.

MP3: Eleanor Friedberger – “Stare At The Sun” (live at Saki sessions)
Stream: Eleanor Friedberger – “Stare At The Sun”
Trailer: Eleanor Friedberger / Personal Record

I can’t that I’ve ever heard of On An On, but that they’ll have New York electro-pop sweeties Savoir Adore as support when they come to town for a show at The Drake on April 12 – tickets $14 – puts them on my radar. Savoir Adore will be re-releasing last year’s Dreamers on June 4 through their new home at Nettwerk Records with some bonus goodies

MP3: Savoir Adore – “Dreamers”
Video: On An On – “The Hunter”

With his new album Mala out now, Devendra Banhart has put together a North American tour to support. He’ll be at The Danforth Music Hall on June 3, tickets $29.50 in advance. Banhart is profiled by The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, The Independent, and Magnet.

MP3: Devendra Banhart – “Baby”
Stream: Devendra Banhart – “Never Seen Such Good Things”

His last scheduled show in December 2010 was canceled at the last minute, but former Beta Band-er Steve Mason is trying again; with his new album Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time due out April 9, Mason has put together a North American tour that brings him to the Drake Underground on May 1, tickets $13.50. The Quietus and The Guardian have feature pieces on Mason.

MP3: Steve Mason – “All Come Down”

New York electro duo MS MR might be making their local debut on April 6 at the Opera House as support for Jessie Ware, but with their new record Secondhand Rapture coming out May 14, they’ve already booked their first headlining show. They’re back for a gig at Wrongbar on May 22.

Video: MS MR – “Hurricane”

British punk veterans The Stranglers are back with a new record in Giants on May 28, and will be in town at the Danforth Music Hall on May 31 to support.

Video: The Stranglers – “Mercury Rising”

Los Angeles electronic artist Baths will be in town at The Horseshoe on June 9 in support of his new album Obsidian, due out May 28. Tickets for that are $15 and you can stream a track from the new record below.

MP3: Baths – “Exit The Mine”
Stream: Baths – “Miasma Sky”

This week’s additions to the inaugural Toronto Urban Roots Fest, running July 4 to 7 at Garrison Commons, are Dawes, Arkells, and Fitz & The Tantrums. And while Shovels & Rope aren’t in that list, they’ll be supporting Dawes on their Summer tour and will probably be officially added after their local date supporting Lucero at The Phoenix next week is in the books. One more round of major acts will be announced next week but if you’re planning to attend the fest a la carte, you should know the day-by-day breakdown of who’s playing when is already up. Single day tickets go on sale March 28.

MP3: Dawes – “If I Wanted Someone”
Video: Arkells – “On Paper”
Video: Fitz & The Tantrums – “Don’t Gotta Work It Out”
Video: Shovels & Rope – “Birmingham”

Another addition to the Summer of mini-fests in Toronto – July 12 at Downsview Park, you can get your bro on with a bill of Weezer, performing The Blue Album in its entirety along with other hits and favourites, Passion Pit doing those two songs that everyone likes as well as some others, and METZ confusing and frightening the early birds. Tickets for that are $82.50 in advance.

MP3: METZ – “Wet Blanket”
Video: Weezer – “Buddy Holly”
Video: Passion Pit – “Take A Walk”

Telekinesis have released a new video from their forthcoming Domarion, out April 2, and Benjamin Michael Lerner lists off some of his favourite things for Spin before playing an acoustic video session. They’ll be at The Horseshoe on May 12.

Video: Telekinesis – “Ghosts & Creatures”

Rilo Kiley have gone the home movie route for the video from their forthcoming rkives rarities comp, due out April 2.

Video: Rilo Kiley – “Let Me Back In”

The Black Angels talk to The Dumbing Of America about their new album Indigo Meadow. It’s out April 2 and they’ll be at The Danforth Music Hall on April 13.

I don’t know why they called this a remix, because if it was a remix, I wouldn’t care. But what it is is a cover of the new Phoenix single by Dinosaur Jr, and it’s great. Thomas Mars talks to Spin a bit about why it exists. Bankrupt! is out April 23 and Phoenix are at The Grove Festival in Niagara-On-The-Lake on August 3.

MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Entertainment”

Flavorwire talks to John Vanderslice about his crowdfunded new record Dagger Beach, which has been given a June 11 release date, and Rolling Stone has premiered a stream of one of the new songs.

Stream: John Vanderslice – “Raw Wood”

The Men have rolled out the first video from their new record New Moon. The Fly also has an interview with the band.

Video: The Men – “I Saw Her Face”

eMusic has an interview with Low.

Over at FasterLouder, Henry Wagons interviews Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.

Ben Bridwell updates Rolling Stone on the status of the new Band Of Horses.

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

No One Ever Sleeps

The Walkmen and Father John Misty aim to find out exactly how often is too often

Photo By Arno FrugierArno FrugierUsually when a band says, “we’ll see you soon” as they walk off the stage, it’s a mostly-empty platitude that means “we’ll see you when we’ve got a new record to push”, or “we’ll see you when our next single becomes a huge hit and allows us to come back and play a much bigger room”. For New York rock stalwarts The Walkmen and Los Angeles psych-folk bard Father John Misty, though, at least lately, it’s been an ironclad promise.

The Walkmen were here twice already this year – once in March at The Phoenix as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations, and again in August at the Molson Amphitheatre supporting both Florence & The Machine and their latest album Heaven – and Father John Misty has one-upped them, making his local debut at The Horseshoe in May, opening up for Youth Lagoon at The Opera House in July, and then returning again to headline Lee’s Palace just this past weekend, all in support of his debut Fear Fun. Which is great news for their fans if a bit hard on their fans’ pocketbooks.

But if you reside in that section of their fanbase Venn diagrams that intersect, the fact that they’re teaming up for a Winter tour should be an exciting one. It will bring them to The Danforth Music Hall on January 16 with ticket prices ranging from $33.50 to $45.50, which isn’t the cheapest, but when you consider the two-for-one value proposition, it’s a pretty good deal.

Le Blogotheque has a couple videos from The Walkmen’s 10th anniversary show in New York this Summer. Bullett, The Chicago Tribune, and The Phoenix have interviews with Josh Tillman of Father John Misty, who is continuing on his current tour.

MP3: The Walkmen – “Love Is Luck”
MP3: The Walkmen – “Line By Line”
MP3: Father John Misty – “Nancy From Now On”
MP3: Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”

Grantland goes behind the scenes of the first video from Titus Andronicus’ Local Business. That record brings them to Lee’s Palace on November 27 and provides context for this interview at The Guardian

Video: Titus Andronicus – “In A Big City”

NPR has a World Cafe session with Band Of Horses, hitting Massey Hall on December 5.

Pitchfork has details on the solo debut from Christopher Owens, former frontman for Girls. Lysandre will be out on January 14 and a couple songs from it are available to stream.

Stream: Christopher Owens – “Lysandre’s Theme / Here We Go”

The first preview track from Local Natives’ new record Hummingbird, due out January 29, is now available to download. They’re at The Opera House on March 28.

MP3: Local Natives – “Breakers”

Though busy for the last while as being part of Thao & Mirah, Thao Nguyen has gotten back together with The Get Down Stay Down – though grammar geeks will find it interesting they’re now credited as “and” instead of “with” – and will release a new album in We The Common on February 5. Stream the first track below.

Stream: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – “Holy Roller”

Under The Radar points out that Telekinesis has, for shits and giggles, made a new Hallowe’en-themed song available to download.

MP3: Telekinesis – “Clock Strikes Midnight”

Loud & Quiet and The Huffington Post talk to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.

Paul Banks talks to Exclaim and Northern Transmissions about and offers Drowned In Sound a track-by-track guide to Banks.

The Shins’ contribution to the now-available Starbucks holiday comp Holidays Rule – a Paul McCartney cover – is now available to stream in whole thanks to Stereogum, and if that’s not enough Shins for you, the whole of their Austin City Limits episode is available to watch. And if that’s still not enough, well I can’t help you.

Stream: The Shins – “Wonderful Christmas Time”

aux.tv talks to Lou Barlow about keeping the balance between Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, and all that other stuff he does.

Mojo interviews Bob Mould.

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Sun

Cat Power, Willis Earl Beal, and Xray Eyeballs at The Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangEvery good thing you’ve heard about Cat Power live is true, and also a lie; the same goes for every bad thing. The reputation that Chan Marshall gained as a fragile, erratic performer over the first decade or so of her career may have seemed overstated to mythic proportions, but few have made great efforts to dispute it. I can’t speak from experience – though a modest fan since Moon Pix, I’d avoided seeing her in concert because of that reputation and reports from the Toronto shows I’d missed in that time seemed to bear out that I hadn’t missed much.

So it was with great surprise and pleasure that my first two Cat Power shows in Fall 2006 – an intimate solo show at Lee’s Palace and a full band performance at The Phoenix, both in support of The Greatest, were sublime experiences. The former had a few awkward moments though they were far outnumbered by the great ones, but the latter, powered by the Memphis Rhythm Band, was about as perfect as you could get. A subsequent show at the 2007 Rogers Picnic was far less assured – though she got the benefit of the doubt as that whole day was just weird – and the last time I saw her at Matador at 21, she again sounded great; any reservations were more about the continued absence of new material than the performance itself. So I was optimistic for her first Toronto show since early 2008 this past Saturday night, since it was coming in support of her game-changing and excellent new album Sun; surely the sass and confidence that went into crafting that record would translate live? It’d be a couple of support acts before we’d find out.

Leadoff hitters Xray Eyeballs may have hailed from Brooklyn, but their psychedelic garage rock sound was decidedly west coast in lineage. With guitarist O.J. San Felipe and bassist Carly Rabalais trading off lead vocals while laying down beds of fuzzy guitars, simple percussion, and whirring synths, their set wasn’t sophisticated but not amateurish, either. It wasn’t a new sound by any stretch nor was their take on it overly memorable, but decent enough for passing a half hour. Though a note to San Felipe – they’re called Straploks and you should look into them.

I’d heard many good things about Chicago’s Willis Earl Beal prior to his being a late but welcome addition as support for this tour – that he was a poet, a soul-singer, a visual artist, an eccentric, a philosopher, and a hell of a performer – but despite him having come through town twice already in support of his lauded debut Acousmatic Sorcery, I hadn’t had a chance to explore further and his being a late addition as support for this leg of the tour was welcome news. He took the stage not with a band but a couple of mannequins, and instead literally played to backing tapes – he had a reel-to-reel tape machine set up behind him, providing the musical backing for him to sing over.

And really, even if he’d brought a full orchestra with him, it’s unlikely anyone would have noticed as it was nigh impossible to take your eyes off of him once he got going. With a huge voice that could go from a soulfully supple to hitting like a sack of gravel, he sang like an avatar of manic desperation while pacing the stage and turning everything around him – the mic stand, the flag that had covered his tape machine, a folding chair, his clothes – into a performance prop and closing out with mic twirls whilst doing The Running Man. Using an artist as singular as Tom Waits as a reference point for any other performer is usually unwise as it’s far too high a bar for mortals to measure against, but for Willis Earl Beal? It’s both stylistically accurate and speaks to the man’s potential. Pretty much amazing.

That the intro music for Cat Power’s set was Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm” – it played twice, once when they band was scheduled to take the stage and again fifteen minutes later when they actually did – was telling. Just as Dylan has earled a reputation as a difficult live act, frequently inverting and rearranging his classic songs to the point of being unrecognizable, so to has Marshall taken to treating her songbook as raw material for crafting something new rather than as canon to be performed respectfully. Also unrecognizable was Marshall herself, following her band onstage in leather jacket and the short, spiky, blonde hairdo debuted in her video for “Cherokee” further punkified with shaved sides. That song opened the show, but rather than stay in character from the video and battle zombies, she instead did battle with the incense burning on stage, constantly fussing with it while singing and then turning her attention to the two mics set up for her – indistinguishable to the eye and ear – through “Sun”, and then the mic stands on “3, 6, 9″. To her credit, she mostly sounded alright while this was going on, if not as in key or articulate as one would like, but it was distracting to watch.

As has been typical for the past few years, Marshall eschewed guitar duties to concentrate on singing – and fussing – leaving her four-piece backing band to the music, and theirs was not an easy task. They had to give the songs enough structure so as to stay intact and relatively recognizable, yet allow Marshall the space to roam and improvise as she was wont to do. And this was where I saw where the crucial difference between this show and the Greatest show would be – in that setting, Marshall had to rein herself in to meet the supremely tight and professional standards of that veteran outfit, but here she was in charge and it was her players’ job to follow her, wherever she felt like going. While they stuck to the Sun material, things stayed fairly steady and onstage eccentrics aside – the incense/mic/stand fiddling and rambling banter persisted – the audience remained onside.

The middle portion of the set was probably more trying. A reading of the unreleased “Bully” found Marshall in her best voice of the evening to that point as being accompanied only by piano, being distracted wasn’t really an option, and from that she went into an almost operatic, dramatically backlit performance of Mexican icon Pedro Infante’s “Angelitos Negros” (a Jukebox bonus track), and then a half-speed, Moon Pix-skeletal version of “The Greatest” that traded almost all melody for a steadily building, almost ominous dynamic – an interesting interpretation, but perhaps not what an audience who’d been waiting over 10 minutes for something remotely familiar wanted.

It having been a half-decade since she’d toured an album of original material through town, most were probably hoping to hear more catalog material but given how it was being presented, they were probably thankful whenever the set returned to Sun and more familiar if recent sounds. When Marshall finally strapped on a guitar for “Silent Machine”, it was both invigorating and frustrating – for those four minutes, her Danelectro was like a lightning rod that channeled everything the band could be into that slinky, sexy, slide riff and they were tight and focused like they’d not been the rest of the show. And of course, while that was the only song that Marshall would play an instrument and the indisputable high point of the show, they did raise their game for a powerful “Nothin’ But Time” and “Peace and Love”. Lest the momentum keep going, however, they went back to You Are Free for a sprawling, deconstructed “I Don’t Blame You”, before again pulling it together for a strong “Ruin”. For the show’s close of I think “Rambling (Wo)man” – I can’t be sure – a fan handed Marshall a bouquet of flowers which she spend most of the song distributing amongst her band and then tossing, flower by flower, into the audience. And continuing in a giving theme, gave away a t-shirt and all the lyrics sheets she had on stage before requesting – and receiving – a fan’s Charlie Chaplin t-shirt.

It was a nice moment and close to a show that was, even to die-hard fans and apologists, uneven and oft frustrating. Though Marshall seemed in good spirits throughout and any performance where she doesn’t halt a song midway through to complain about the monitors or just walk right off is a positive one, for as long as she’s been doing this she should be much better. She can be and has been. But perhaps for an artist for whom, “is she alright?” is always a legitimate question – a brace of cancelled promotional appearances before the start of the tour was cause for concern, as was her tweet from the inside of an ambulance the afternoon of the show – perhaps overt fan service by way of her song selections and arrangements is too much to ask. Perhaps it’s enough that she’s again making great records, and that your odds of seeing a good show – while still obviously not even – are much better than they once were. At least she’s trying.

NOW, The National Post, and BlogTO were also on hand for the show.

Photos: Cat Power, Willis Earl Beal, Xray Eyeballs @ The Kool Haus – October 20, 2012
MP3: Cat Power – “Ruin”
MP3: Cat Power – “Cherokee”
MP3: Cat Power – “Manhattan”
MP3: Cat Power – “Metal Heart”
MP3: Cat Power – “The Greatest”
MP3: Cat Power – “He-War”
MP3: Cat Power – “Nude As The News”
MP3: Willis Earl Beal – “Monotony”
MP3: Willis Earl Beal – “Blue Escape”
MP3: Willis Earl Beal – “White Noise”
MP3: Xray Eyeballs – “Crystal”
MP3: Xray Eyeballs – “Egyptian Magician”
Video: Cat Power – “Cherokee”
Video: Cat Power – “King Rides By”
Video: Cat Power – “Living Proof”
Video: Cat Power – “Lived In Bars”
Video: Cat Power – “He War”
Video: Cat Power – “Crossbones Style”
Video: Willis Earl Beal – “Monotony”
Video: Xray Eyeballs – “X”
Video: Xray Eyeballs – “Crystal”

Sufjan Stevens has made one of the songs from his upcoming Silver & Gold Christmas song box set available for download. The set’s not out until November 13 so think of it like that one gift that you were allowed to open on Christmas Eve. It’s just like that.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens – “Ding-A-Ling-A-Ring-A-Ling”

Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus talks to Consequence Of Sound. They’re at Lee’s Palace on November 27.

Clash and The Oklahoman meet Band Of Horses, in town at Massey Hall on December 5.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Grizzly Bear.

NYC Taper is sharing another The Mountain Goats live recording from last week.

Pitchfork talks to Sharon Van Etten about making her recent video for “Magic Chords”; Varsity just talks to her about whatever.

DIY has a feature interview with Savoir Adore.

The San Francisco Chronicle and CBC Music chat with Joey Burns of Calexico while The 405 also ropes John Covertino into their conversation.

NPR talks to Benjamin Gibbard.