Posts Tagged ‘Jose Gonzalez’

Monday, May 18th, 2009

First, We Take Manhattan

Leonard Cohen at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, Connecticut

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf only it were as Muppet-simple as “taking Manhattan”. In fact, it shook out more like first, I take a subway, then a shuttle bus, then a ferry, then a plane, then monorail, train and subway again just to get into Manhattan. And just as soon as I’ve arrived in the Big Apple, it’s back on the subway, another subway, then a train, another train and then an unlicensed taxi (“hey you need a ride?”) – all to get into Waterbury, Connecticut. A city which was once apparently a brass manufacturing powerhouse but which now seems to have little to recommend it as a destination, save for a gorgeous theater downtown – the Palace – and on Thursday night, one Leonard Cohen.

Seeing Cohen wasn’t on the agenda as recently as last weekend, as I’d hoped to be able to finagle a way to the Hamilton show at Copp’s tomorrow, but an extra ticket from Without A Yard, serendipitous scheduling and a willingness to undertake a rather ridiculous set of logistics to trek out to the show made it happen. Mostly. Weather delays and other issues fixed it so that we didn’t actually reach the theater until almost mid-way into Cohen’s set – so it’s just as well that he needs no introduction, because I wouldn’t have been able to provide one.

Thankfully, the show was extra-long and with an intermission, for that’s when we arrived and thus managed to avoid being those people who get there late and try to find their seats in the dark. Sure, it meant that instead of a marathon three-hour show, we only got a 90-minute, regular-length show, but even a that much Leonard is like a gift – especially in a venue as stunning as the Palace. There may not be much else to say about a one-cab town like Waterbury, but this was easily the second-nicest place I’d ever seen a show, after only the Royal Albert Hall in London.

And what a show. I don’t know what Cohen played in the front half of the performance, but it almost seemed like he knew to hold back my favourite songs for the finale, as it was stunner after stunner as soon as the lights went down and Cohen, surprisingly nimble, sprinted/danced/shimmied onto the stage. “Tower Of Song”, “Suzanne”, “Take This Waltz”, “Democracy”, “Halleleujah”, “Famous Blue Raincoat”, hell yes. And okay, I just had a look at the set list for the show and am a little pained to have missed “Anthem”, “Everybody Knows” and “Chelsea Hotel” but still, no regrets.

Just as remarkable as hearing the songs performed live – not something I ever thought I’d get to experience – was how good Cohen sounded. He’s obviously not a young man – he may have been spry but was still a slightish figure and a bit stooped – but age seems to have served his delivery very well, somehow making his voice even deeper, richer and more sonorous. He also played more guitar than I’d expected, and I’d have been happy – possibly even happier – to have heard him play solo. It’s no secret my favourite Cohen aesthetic is that of the stark, dark folksinger of his earlier works even if, as far as songs go, I prefer his later works circa The Future or I’m Your Man (and I’m far from unique in this, I know) but the production values on those records – the big bands, the backing singers, the rather dubious synths – have just aged so badly that it can be hard to listen to.

In the live setting, he splits the difference somewhat with a nine-piece backing band including three backing singers – it’s all live, analog instrumentation, toy keyboard on “Tower Of Song” excepted, and masterfully played but I don’t feel the high degree of polish – even if suited for the setting – suits the songs best. They need those dark, dusty corners and the gleam of Cohen’s band doesn’t let those shadows fall where they should. Additionally, Cohen as bandleader was generous to a fault, allowing extended excursions to the musicians – do anyone really need to hear more than one bouzouki solo in a lifetime? – and even ceding lead vocals to Sharon Robinson on their collaboration “Boogie Street”. Perhaps if I’d made the entire show, I’d have been less anxious about it but any moment that Cohen wasn’t singing felt like a lost one.

Understand, however, that these complaints aren’t even really complaints, more just observations, and should in no way imply that I was less than enraptured by the show. No matter how you dress them up, the heart of it is Cohen, his words and his voice, and those were flawless. Obviously I hope that Cohen continues to tour and that I might get to see him again – start to finish – but that’s a huge and probably unrealistic presumption. I feel fortunate to have seen as much as I did, and to anyone who will be seeing him on any of his remaining dates, you are in for such a treat. But of course you already knew that.

The Hartford Courant also has a review of the Waterbury show.

Photos: Leonard Cohen @ The Palace Theater – May 14, 2009
Video: Leonard Cohen – “Democracy”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “Closing Time”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “Dance Me To The End Of Love”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “In My Secret Life”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “First We Take Manhattan”
MySpace: Leonard Cohen

PitchforkTV’s “Don’t Look Down” series welcomes Jose Gonzalez for a session. He plays the Harbourfront Centre on June 26 as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

Anyone disappointed that Loney Dear had to cancel last week’s show in Toronto on account of their van breaking down between here and Montreal – I’m looking at you, me – can take a little solace in this performance they recorded for Baeble Music’s new “Guest Apartment” video session series. Seattlest has an interview with Emil Svanangen.

WOXY has posted the MP3s from their recent Lounge Act session with The Dears to share and enjoy.

Pitchfork talks to Peter Buck and Paste has some photos of R.E.M. hunkered down in the studio, hard at work on the follow-up to Accelerate.

Vanity Fair and Prefix talk to Stephin Merritt about his new musical based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

Spinnerette has a date at the Mod Club on June 19. Their debut, which is either self-titled or called A Prescription For Mankind, is out June 23.

Video: Spinnerette – “Ghetto Love”

Abe Vigoda – band, not actor – are at the El Mocambo on July 22 in support of their new album Reviver. Advance tickets are $10.

MP3: Abe Vigoda – “Don’t Lie”

The Rural Alberta Advantage, who will properly release Hometowns on July 7 and tour North America all Summer to support, will play a homecoming pit stop/record release show at the Horseshoe on July 30.

So some details have emerged on why the Olympic Island concert was canceled last week. Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew blogs that the July 11 date was unfortunately scheduled opposite the Molson Indy – both temporally and physically, what with Olympic Island being just across the lake from Exhibition Place, where the very loud cars would have been tearing around the track all day. They’d likely have been done by the time BSS and Explosions In The Sky took the stage but for the rest of the bands, it’d have been near-unbearable. Beach House wouldn’t have stood a chance. So the festival was canned, the free make-up show that same night from BSS at Harbourfront Centre announced and the lineups for it are probably already stretching all along the waterfront. Also covered in the post is the fact that the band are now recording their fourth album – a proper Broken release, not a “Presents” faux-solo record – with Tortoise’s John McIntire at the helm. Considering his aesthetic is very, very different from usual BSS producer Dave Newfeld, it should be very interesting to see what comes of this – one hopes he can curb some/much of the Scene’s meandering sprawl without costing them their spontaneous magic. And Pitchfork currently has excerpts from the new Broken biography, This Book Is Broken available to read.

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Midnight Man

Photo by Frank Yang

Dear every other touring band in the world: we appreciate your interest, but your services are no longer required. We have Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

My ticket to their show at the Kool Haus had been sitting on my corkboard for something like six months, and with every listen to Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, to say nothing of my ongoing explorations of his back catalog, I couldn’t wait for Wednesday night to come fast enough. Cave’s live show has long been regarded as legendary and as a recent convert, I was most anxious to see the spectacle for myself.

The openers were Black Mountain, who were making the most of their visit to the 416 with two shows – three if you include their Polaris gala performance – in five days. As they took the stage, one helpful audience member called out, “please don’t suck!” – no worries there. Despite myriad opportunities, I’d never seen the Vancouver quintet live before and was quite handily impressed. Despite their sludgy, stoner-rock reputation they weren’t unnecessarily loud and displayed considerable musical nimbleness in delivering tracks from In The Future, highlighted by Stephen McBean’s guitar heroics and Amber Webber’s unearthly vocals. And it’s quite an endorsement that the full house of Cave devotees seemed to quite enjoy their set, sending them off with an enthusiastic “you guys were pretty good!”. Which they certainly were.

But on this night, the bar for performance would be set considerably higher than “pretty good”. With the Bad Seeds taking up every square foot of the expanded Kool Haus stage – and if I can make a comic geek joke, Warren Ellis looks an awful lot like Alan Moore – Cave bounded on stage and turned “Night Of The Lotus Eaters” from a relatively low-key, mood piece on album into a searing and sleazy opening salvo that would set the tone for the show. Cave, natty in a purple pinstripe suit, prowled and pounced around the stage looking like the mad preacher offspring of Mephisto and Elvis here to welcome the apocalypse and convince the audience that they should as well. By rights, the persona that Cave inhabits in song and on stage should come off as theatre but he inhabits it so bloody well that there is no questioning it.

Not all was fire and brimstone, though. If his demon-possessed orator wasn’t able to convince you to join his merry voyage of the damned, then with jacket doffed and extra shirt button undone, his seductive balladeer would surely seal the deal. Not that he needed to try that hard to get the crowd to follow him anywhere or even at all – judging from the many declarations of love from the audience, all returned by Cave of course, they were his from note one. Credit must also go to the Bad Seeds, an absolutely crack musical outfit capable of moving from anarchic skronk to elegiac beauty at the drop of the hat, but at the end of the day it’s about Cave, who is definitely one of the most charismatic performers I’ve ever seen.

The one hour, forty-five minute set was pretty much a perfect blend of old material and new, one third drawn from Lazarus and the rest from the entire breadth of his 25-year career. He even seemed to take requests, delivering an elegant “Ship Song” in response to a placard in the audience, though set lists from the rest of the tour implied that it’d have made an appearance anyways. But gestures like that, as well as designating a girl in the audience as “keeper of the towel” – as in the increasingly sweat-soaked implement that he and she tossed back and forth throughout the show – are what make Cave such an engaging frontman. Well, that and an incredible voice, presence, catalog of songs and mustache.

For the encore, Cave and company delivered the two lead tracks from the double-disc masterpiece Abbatoir Blues and The Lyre Of Orpheus, the former turned into a squall of punk rock anarchy and the latter a lurching bit of audience call-and-response, and as a show finale, a scorched earth “Stagger Lee”. Oh mama. So worth the wait.

With Cave’s entire catalog being remastered and reissued in expanded form, I’m waiting a bit before delving further into his works but having now gotten a taste of what awaits me beyond The Best Of and what I’ve already gotten – I just ordered up the Abbatoir Blues Tour set – I can’t wait. The Globe & Mail has an interview with Cave and there’s more joyous reports from Wednesday night’s congregation at eye, Exclaim!, The Toronto Sun and Chart.

Photos: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Black Mountain @ The Kool Haus – October 1, 2008
MP3: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!”
MP3: Black Mountain – “Tyrants”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Night Of The Lotus Eaters”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “More News From Nowhere”
Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Midnight Man”
Video: Black Mountain – “Wucan”
MySpace: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
MySpace: Black Mountain

Oasis’ new record Dig Out Your Soul is currently streaming in its entirety over at the band’s MySpace. It’s out for reals on Tuesday. NME has a piece on Gold And Silver And Sunshine, the making-of doc that’s going to accompany the album in some form, and JAM has some more from Noel Gallagher on the infamous stage attack from last month. Speaking of which, the band have announced a North American tour in December… and curiously, there’s not Toronto date? I wonder why?

Stream: Oasis / Dig Out Your Soul

Radiohead have selected the winner of their “make a video for In Rainbows” contest and made it the official video for “Reckoner”. Which they’re also holding a remix contest.

Video: Radiohead – “Reckoner”

Dave Gedge of The Wedding Present talks about life in California to LiveDaily and reveals to The Georgia Straight that after recording El Rey with Steve Albini, they went back and re-recorded the whole of their debut George Best with him. The Wedding Present are at Lee’s Palace tonight and if you’re going, remember it’s an early show – doors 7:30, Dirty On Purpose at 8:15 and Wedding Present at 9:30 – all over by 11.

Filter discusses matters sartorial with Flight Of The Conchords.

The Secret Machines have offered up the first taste of their new, self-titled album, out October 14. They’re at Lee’s Palace on October 22.

MP3: The Secret Machines – “Atomic Heels”

The Denver Post talks to Oliver Ackerman of A Place To Bury Strangers.

Last seen opening up for The Dandy Warhols, Los Angeles’ Darker My Love are at the Horseshoe for their own show on November 30, tickets $8.50.

QRO interviews The Coast, who are also profiled by The Guardian.

Sloan’s Jay Ferguson chats with The Muse.

The Wilmington Star-News rightly acknowledges both parts of a kick-ass tour crossing the continent, talking to both Okkervil River’s Will Sheff and Crooked Fingers’ Eric Bachmann. The latter’s Fortune/Forfeit is out on Tuesday.

The Tripwire interviews Jose Gonzalez.

The Stranger stops being strangers with Silver Jew David Berman.

After ceasing publication in the real world this past Spring, No Depression is back as a newfangled website, and they’ve got a feature on Basia Bulat. Welcome back.

Earlier this week Pitchfork put together a listing of all the medium and major album releases still due in 2008. I also maintain such a calendar for my own purposes but less interesting than what they noted that I didn’t – a new Wheat album on November 11 and a Cat Power EP on December 9 that shows she’s still in covers girl mode, guess The Sun isn’t coming this year – was what is apparently not showing up this year after all. I don’t necessarily know if these would show up on the ‘Fork radar, but I had been anxiously awaiting First Love from Emmy The Great and Clinging To A Scheme from The Radio Dept, both of which had been originally targeted for a September release. Obviously that’s not happened. My fingers are crossed that at least one will surface before the year’s out, but more than likely their reserved spots in my year-end list will have to carry over to ’09.