Concert Review: Bishop Morocco, Handsome Furs, June 23, Lee’s Palace


TorontoBishop Morocco opened for the Handsome Furs last Wednesday at Lee’s Palace. Their music sounds a little like Joy Division; and by a little, I mean a lot. They had the droning bass, the droning vocals, and the general format down pat. What really hamstrung their performance was the robotic fourth member of the band: the dreaded drum machine and programmable sound creating doohickey.

Drum machines are weird. It’s understandable that musicians use them to keep things together when laying down tracks. However, in a live setting, it’s like listening to a musician playing with an earlier recorded version of himself. It’s predeterminism at its worst. Every little tidbit of the song has been pre-routed and planned. There’s no opportunity to stray from the path, improvisation is cramped, and the interplay between the musicians and the crowd is restrained at best.

At the end of this show, I made myself a promise. I’m going to build a robot. A robot with one simple directive: to roam the earth in order to seek out and destroy all drum machines. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Mark, don’t you know that a drum machine is itself basically a robot? And a robot will never kill a fellow robot?” Of course I thought of that! For frack’s sake! Give me some credit here. This is why I will *remove* my robots’ ethics chip before instructing him to fulfill this nefarious deed. (See the tooltip on the robot picture for how this might unfold)

In any case, Bishop Morocco does have potential. If they can branch out from the Joy Division umbrella and get a living and breathing drummer, I’d be curious to see what they could accomplish.

The biggest compliment that I can give to Montreal-based Handsome Furs is the fact that I signed up to review their show. With my mind still reeling from NXNE, and the Toronto Jazz Festival already upon us, I had but a few precious days of break time at my disposal. When I saw that the Handsome Furs were playing during my stare-at-a-blank-wall-in-silence time, I barely hesitated to sign up. I had caught the last 20 minutes of their CMW set last March and jumped at the opportunity to see them on their own terms. Despite my bleary eyes and general sense of exhaustion, I’m glad I went.

The Handsome Furs consist of husband-wife duo Dan Coeckner and Alexei Perry. Before I get into the details of their show, it’s worth mentioning that the couple spent much of the opening set out on the floor. They were listening, dancing, and occasionally making out. Not only was that a pretty classy and supportive move, but it was also as cute as fuck. Dan does the lions share of the singing and guitar-playing, while Alexei covers the keyboard beat machines and the cartwheels. Anyway you cut it, the Handsome Furs is one adrenalin rush of a live show.

With only two people on stage, it can be difficult to maintain such intense energy throughout an entire set, but somehow they’ve figured out the formula. Alexei is like a heart beat on heroine. She kicks her legs out with abandon, jumps up and down, and mouths the words to all the songs. Their brand of electronic rock is infectious. They admitted to using the Toronto crowd as guinea pigs to test out some brand-new songs, and we certainly won’t fault them for it. Alexei’s trepidation and slightly panicked approach to this new material was positively endearing.

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Posted on by Mark in Concerts

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