Concert Review: Telly Savalas Is Alive and the Reigning Sound, October 25, The Horseshoe

Posted on by Jack Derricourt in Concerts | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Concert Review: Telly Savalas Is Alive and the Reigning Sound, October 25, The Horseshoe

“There’s a lot of style here tonight, Jack.” Telly Savalas was alive and well and talking to me. The long-presumed dead actor/director/interpreter/visionary was telling it like it is in front of a gangling, open-mouthed troupe of music fanatics. Dressed in a suit with more class than a Harvard graduating ceremony, and with the help of his be-wigged piano player, Telly cooed terrible truths out amongst the audience: “You kids are facing down a terrible form of darkness these days . . .  no one can get a job . . . where’s the man with the guts to clear the path, find a way through to the end of the tunnel? . . . a man like Benny Franklin, Lenny Da Vince, and early Howard Hughes.” It’s hard to believe that the bald twirler of braggadocio is actually mild-mannered former quarterback Tom DiMenna. He’s that part of the American Dream that allows you to will yourself into a different, high-polished, pair of shoes.

The captivating climax of Telly’s act was his masterful interpretation of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” a song that the Righteous Brothers “almost got right.” That’s what the world is to Telly: a place with not enough music and too little love.

1x1.trans Concert Review: Telly Savalas Is Alive and the Reigning Sound, October 25, The Horseshoe

As if in answer, the Reigning Sound took the stage just ten minutes later. These magicians of confessional rock and roll have the power to answer Telly’s righteous indignation. When asked to describe Greg Cartwright’s merry band of tex-mex rockers, I usually tell friends the Sound are like a supercharged version of the Wallflowers, just much cooler.

They played that part with aplomb to the packed crowd at the Horseshoe. Opener “Your Love Is a Fine Thing” got everybody moving with affection. The material off the band’s newest LP, Shattered, had the Toronto folks swaying back and forth, especially the pumped-up chorus of “My My.” But for the true fan of the Deadly Snakes, the thrashing Toronto outfit that Cartwright produced and played with, only the heaviest elements of the Sound’s catalogue would do. The band was gracious, pulling out a majority of the hits found on Too Much Guitar, an album so gritty and intense, it is likely to spin on, played over and over, through eternity.

Cartwright even deigned to play “Bad Man,” a number by his seminal 90s garage group the Oblivians. Some daring fan had requested the song early into the Sound’s set, to which Cartwright had jokingly replied, “That’s a cover.” His heart was in the right place, and the song got the crowd roaring with appreciation. It was a night of bad men and good music — rock and roll.

Opera Review: La Boheme, Vienna State Opera

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Opera Review: La Boheme, Vienna State Opera

When you travel to somewhere with a rich cultural history such as Vienna, you pretty much have to go with the flow and investigate things outside your normal comfort zone. Yesterday, I went to the opera. I’ve never been one to appreciate Opera, but if I was to do it once, I might as well go see opera in one of the finest and oldest opera houses in the world.

The Austrian Opera house is old. It is also gorgeous and has amazing acoustics. On the day of the opera, an hour before the show starts, they open up tickets for standing room areas (for the peasants) at an absurd amount of 3 euros. To put it into perspective, a bottle of mineral water or coca cola costs 3.30 euros. We got tickets for the standing room area in the gallery, which is in the upper upper deck of the opera house. If you thought Massey Hall’s upper deck was high, just wait until you see this one. At least five stories up, the standing room area of the Austria Opera house makes you realize why all those people have those little binoculars. Economic lines were drawn – rich people at the bottom, poor people at the top. Pretty much the opposite of Drake’s song.

Coat check was mandatory and free, and when you go to your standing spot (it’s a free for all), you mark the spot by tying your scarf around the rail you’ll be leaning on. How convenient! As you would imagine, a lot of people were dressed up in their best suits and evening gowns. I even wore a dress shirt for the occasion (even though I have worn it about four times this trip and haven’t washed it yet). It’s quite a scene and for a brief, fleeting moment in time, you can see what it’s like to be in the elite. The thing I love about Europe is that even in an expensive venue like this, the drink prices were exactly the same as it would be anywhere. I wish MLSE would learn from this. Sadly, you cannot bring drinks into the actual opera hall itself.

The opera I saw was an Italian play called La Boheme, not to be confused with the Quebec mascot La Bonhomme. Written in the late 1700′s, it is about a group of bohemians living in the Latin quarters in Paris. It was basically Friends. There was an on and off relationship between the two leads that seem to come and go for no real reason, the group of people seem to like to hang out in either the local cafe or their overly large apartment and you had your list of sassy/quirky/attractive characters. It was basically Friends.

Obviously, you go an opera for the music and the singing and that was totally impressive. The sopranos on stage had some serious vocal and lung capabilities. I wonder if they ever go karaoke. It is a testament to their talent (and sound engineering) that their singing can reach the upper edges of the Opera House without the use of microphones. I had no real clue what they were singing about since it was all in Italian but luckily each area is equipped with a little display that shows you the screen play in your chosen language. Otherwise I would have had to imagine everything. The musicians were as you would expect, top notch. I wonder if anyone has written some modern operas using synths and some drum and bass. The show was roughly two and a half hours long with a brief intermission in between. There were no encores, but obviously that’s not a thing.

At the end of the day, a pretty unique experience that cost less then a falafel. How can you go wrong?

Concert Review: Pallbearer, Tombs, October 24, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Concert Review: Pallbearer, Tombs, October 24, Lees Palace

Doom metal. It’s primal, it’s visceral, it’s massive. It’s heavy. And in the case of Pallbearer‘s latest, Foundations Of Burden, it clocks in at an average of 10 minutes per song. In a live setting, those songs come across as sufficiently epic in nature, all thick, plodding riffs and melodic leads. It’s the kind of sound that just washes over you, envelops you until you can’t help but bang your head very slowly. This is music that you just feel on a very basic level somewhere deep inside, probably in your colon or liver. Or maybe your gallbladder.

The Little Rock, Arkansas-based band took to the stage and started things off with “The Ghost I Used To Be,” the standout track on the new album. Singer/guitarist Brett Campbell noted that it had been awhile since they’d played Toronto, a previous show having been cancelled due to their being snowed in at Winnipeg. Being stuck in a snowstorm in Winnipeg doesn’t sound like a great time, but as excuses for missing shows go, it does seem sufficiently metal.

Also on the bill were Brooklyn’s Tombs, who, while sharing a penchant for funereal band names with Pallbearer, had a much more varied sound than that of the headliner, drawing from various subgenres such as black metal, hardcore, and doom, and I daresay they came across as more metal than Pallbearer in some ways (I will give Pallbearer big points for the flying v guitar and the bassist’s Van Halen t-shirt though). Certainly more brutal, but ultimately equally satisfying.

Film Review: A Life in the Death of Joe Meek [Howard S. Berger and Susan Stahman, 2014]

Posted on by Thierry Cote in Everything, Movies, Reviews | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Film Review: A Life in the Death of Joe Meek [Howard S. Berger and Susan Stahman, 2014]

A few minutes into A Life in the Death of Joe Meek, a new feature-length documentary about legendary British producer and sonic innovator Joe Meek from American producers/directors Howard S. Berger and Susan Stahman (its title a reference to the 1960s play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg), Keith Strickland of the B-52s compares Meek to Brian Eno and Kraftwerk. While the comparison may seem far-fetched at first, the numbers (Meek produced more than 250 singles between 1960 and 1967, including the first Billboard no. 1 by a British group, the Tornados’ “Telstar”) are simply staggering, and the influence of his pioneering use of overdubs, echo and—more generally—the studio as a musical instrument in itself can be heard in countless recordings by everyone from Wreckless Eric to Mr. Bungle to Atlas Sound. This year, the NME even named Joe Meek the greatest producer ever, topping a list that included such notables as Phil Spector, Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, Dr. Dre and George Martin—a testament to the importance of his legacy. To put it mildly, and although he made his share of poor musical judgments (including advising Brian Epstein not to sign the Beatles, passing on David Bowie, and convincing the Moontrekkers to get rid of their teenage singer, one Roderick Stewart), Joe Meek was—and his accomplishments remain—a big deal.

If all Meek had ever done was to engineer and produce dozens of groundbreaking hit singles and revolutionize the way music was recorded in Britain, that alone would surely provide enough fodder for a fascinating music documentary. That his life was also marked by several professional falling-outs, paranoia, a fascination with the occult, stories of tantrums and the challenges of being a homosexual man in Britain at a time when that was enough to get arrested means that there is plenty of material for a film twice as long as A Life in the Death of Joe Meek. 

What there is precious little of is footage of Joe Meek at work in the studio or being interviewed. Berger and Stahman overcome this problem by drawing on several interviews with industry insiders, biographers, family members, Meek enthusiasts, and a lengthy list of musicians (including the aforementioned Strickland, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Yes’s Steve Howe, Edwyn Collins, Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos and members of groups who recorded with Meek such as the Tornados, the Honeycombs and the Cryan’ Shames). While this means that A Life in the Death of Joe Meek has to rely largely on a collection of talking heads to tell Meek’s story, it nevertheless manages to cover all the bases, from his solitary youth in Newent as an electronics prodigy (he is said to have assembled the region’s first working television in his parents’ shed) to his first experiments with sound mixing as an engineer for the International Broadcasting Company, to his untimely death in the still-mysterious murder-suicide of his landlord at the age of 34. The meat of the documentary is devoted to Meek’s years at 304 Holloway Road (“It didn’t look like Abbey Road. It looked like your grandfather’s garden shed, you know, where your grandfather was experimenting”, says David John of David John and the Mood), but Berger and Stahman also find time to examine Meek’s struggles with the stodgy British music industry as an independent—and innovative—record producer, his obsession with Buddy Holly and his perceived rivalry with Spector, whom he believed was stealing all his ideas.

Where A Life in the Death of Joe Meek falters the slightest—perhaps out of necessity to keep the film’s running time under two hours—is in presenting the more technical aspects of Meek’s recordings. The producer’s sexuality and relationship with bassist Heinz Burt of the Tornados are discussed in lengthy and often uncomfortable segments (some suggest that Burt was gay “for money”), but those looking for a Classic Albums-style breakdown of the recording techniques used on Meek’s biggest hits for the most part will not find it here, though discussions of his work on the late Humphrey Littleton’s only hit, a jazz instrumental by the title of “Bad Penny Blues” (which Page calls “phenomenal”), and I Hear A New World, a concept LP only released in full long after his death, are both illuminating.

Ultimately, A Life in the Death of Joe Meek aims to paint a complete picture of Joe Meek as a studio genius, a gifted and inventive recording pioneer, as well as a flawed human being—and in that respect it is a resounding success. Those already familiar with Meek’s work will find in this documentary a detailed oral history of a fascinating period in British music that is too often overshadowed by the emergence of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. For everyone else, A Life in the Death of Joe Meek will serve as the perfect introduction to one of popular music’s most idiosyncratic character—and one of its most unique back catalogues.

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