Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
Fucked Up, The Sadies, PS I Love You and Quest For Fire at The Great Hall in Toronto
Frank YangThe baseline for any Fucked Up show is glorious mayhem. Add in factors like a hometown show, a full-album recital of their ridiculously ambitious and critically-acclaimed, concept rock opera David Comes To Life, the last gig of an insanely busy year in support of said album that took the band around the world from bars to festivals to arenas, a fundraising benefit for Barriere Lake Solidarity, and a lineup made up of some of the band’s favourite acts from Toronto (and outlying regions), and expectations will not unreasonably be increased to ludicrous heights.
Things opened with Quest For Fire, the only act of this two-night mini-festival that I’d never seen despite them having been around for some time. And though I’d been briefed on what they were about, musically, I could have guessed from their pedalboards – any band with that many Big Muffs on stage is likely to be stoner-rock inclined, and indeed they were inclined to the big lumbering riffs, but their brief set showed they were also able to move with some velocity when needed. First band of the night and our daily recommended dose of head banging and guitar solos were well covered.
It’d been a while since I’d last seen PS I Love You, and apparently in the interim they’ve decided the two-man band thing wasn’t cutting it. For this show, at least, they’d expanded to a three-piece with Tim Bruton of Matters and countless other local acts helping out on guitar and keys. Not that Paul Saulnier necessarily needed the help – he’d also acquired a double-neck guitar to beef up his already massive sound, and on this night PS I Love You were easily the loudest I’d ever heard them. And also the proggiest – it’s interesting how when they first emerged, all the reference points were ’80s and ’90s college rock because now there’s little chance you’d peg their influences any more recent than the ’70s. There are still plenty of fret-shredding solos, but now you couldn’t ignore the sophistication in the ideas and arrangements – that Rush cover they released a little while back wasn’t ironic, I’ll tell you that.
I don’t think it’s a slight to say that The Sadies are always The Sadies, because if you’ve seen The Sadies live before, you know that means they’re always awesome. As with when I saw them last, opening up for another not-immediately obvious act in Godspeed You! Black Emperor back in April, their set skewed a little more to the rock side of things than the country – Travis Good’s fiddle did not make an appearance – and it may have felt a little looser than they normally are – at one point Dallas Good dedicated a song to everybody in the whole world – but favourites like “Ridge Runner Rell” and “Tiger Tiger” were givens for the set and as jaw-dropping as ever. That there was a mic set up in the centre of the stage but unattended for most of the set was clear sign that a guest would be joining them, but it really could been anyone since the band have worked with pretty much everyone. Who it ended up being was Andre Ethier – the former Deadly Snake, not the current Los Angeles Dodger – who led the band through a couple of tunes reminiscent of Rolling Thunder-era Dylan, this ensuring that the ’70s theme that had been running through the night remained unbroken.
And then it was time for Fucked Up. Speaking objectively, it was hard to ignore that Damian Abraham’s mic sounded either broken or deliberately distorted beyond reasoning, or that the mix wasn’t nearly as balanced as it should have been to allow a work as sonically complex as David to really shine (though standing right in front of Ben Cook’s amp probably didn’t help my perspective), or that at a few points in the set I heard the band’s usual uber-tightness waver some. But none of that mattered one whit. This was the band that had improbably become this city’s musical ambassadors to the world over the last few years celebrating an amazing year with their friends and family for a worthy cause, and any nit-picking about the technical details – which were mostly minor – were rendered completely invalid by the spirit and energy of the show.
For his traditional foray into the audience early in the show, Abraham climbed right up off the stage into the balcony and traversed the entire perimeter of the venue while his bandmates churned through “Turn The Season”. Beneath him, as they did from note one and would through the duration of the show, a relatively small but unquestionably determined mosh pit did what they do; Abraham would encourage the horseplay but also clearly kept a watchful eye on his charges. And though he’s the indisputable focal point of the band, enough can’t be said about the rest of the band and their ability to keep up the exhausting and unrelenting pace that the material demands, be it unloading massive riff after riff or providing the melodic backing vocals so essential to tempering Abraham’s gruff roar. I can’t imagine the endurance necessary to pull off a show like this, but they did it.
Surprisingly, the show seemed to go by quicker than the album itself seems to and with the set finale of “Lights Go Out”, you couldn’t help but feel a huge swell of hometown pride for what had just gone down. Arguably the city’s best band right now, for whom epithets like “punk” or “hardcore” are now so stylistically inadequate, gave us a fantastic gift and reminded us that in a year when so much seems to have gone wrong civically, there was still so much to love about this city. Toronto the good, Toronto the Fucked Up.
Exclaim and BlogTO also have reviews of the show and The AV Club has an interview with drummer Josh Zucker. Pitchfork has the whole of the Fucked Up performance of David in New York City available to watch.
Photos: Fucked Up, The Sadies, PS I Love You, Quest For Fire @ The Great Hall – December 20, 2011
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”
MP3: The Sadies – “Another Year Again”
MP3: The Sadies – “Anna Leigh”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Subdivisions”
MP3: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
MP3: PS I Love You – “2012″
MP3: PS I Love You – “Butterflies & Boners”
MP3: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Fucked Up – “Turn The Season”
Video: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
Video: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Black Albino Bones”
Video: Fucked Up – “Crooked Head”
Video: The Sadies – “Another Day Again”
Video: The Sadies – “Cut Corners”
Video: The Sadies – “Postcards”
Video: The Sadies – “The Horseshoe”
Video: The Sadies – “Flash”
Video: PS I Love You (featuring Diamond Rings) – “Leftovers”
Video: PS I Love You – “Get Over”
Video: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Video: Quest For Fire – “I’ve Been Trying To Leave”
Video: Woodpigeon – “For Paolo”
Amos The Transparent have released a video from their forthcoming album Goodnight My Dear… Im Falling Apart, which compiles a pair of previously-released EPs and will be out on February 14. They play a release show for the record at The Horseshoe on February 25.