Concert Review: Low Cut Connie, August 6, Horseshoe Tavern

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It’s quite a big stretch to say that I’ve seen Low Cut Connie in concert before since my previous experience with the band probably amounts to a grand total of a song and a half this past March while I waited for our food order during SXSW. But I’m gonna say it counts, in that the band made some kind of impression on me and they certainly had the crowd at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in the palm of their hand that day so I made a mental note to check the band out in more of a proper concert setting when I got the chance. And on Monday night at the Horseshoe, I got that chance.

As it turns out, the chance to see the band in Toronto was not necessarily a given. Singer and pianist Adam Weiner noted early on in their set that the band hadn’t been to Canada in four years, later adding that they had considered the option of not returning to Canadian soil at all.

“I didn’t think we’d come back,” he said, explaining that they played a show once at the Drake Hotel where they couldn’t get the piano down the stairs as well as a show in Ottawa that he only described as “very strange” and a show in Kitchener (“wherever that is”) that also didn’t make a good impression on them. So while all of that could have added up to convincing the band never to cross the border again, luckily they changed their mind and came back. And despite the fact that Weiner described the crowd as “polite motherfuckers” early on when they didn’t respond quite enthusiastically enough, he repeatedly stated how much he loves Toronto throughout the night and even dedicated the song “Beverly” to the late Jackie Shane, who spent the bulk of her career in Toronto.

Weiner also mentioned another Canadian connection – the fact that he once lived in Montreal for two years, a time wherein he would often see Leonard Cohen walking around his neighbourhood and hoped that Cohen might come in to the cafe where he played piano and see “the other depressed Jewish boy in Montreal” play.

Leonard Cohen never did see him back then, but if he had, I’m sure it would have been much a much different performance than the kind of show that Low Cut Connie puts on – the band’s performance was a full on rock spectacle centred around Weiner’s over the top showmanship. Strutting about the stage, ruffling people’s hair, high-fiving, and standing on top of his piano at various points throughout their set, Weiner gave off a bit of a Jerry Lee Lewis meets WWE vibe. He started the set at pretty much 100% energy level and didn’t really let up aside from a couple of piano ballads later in the night. That’s entertainment.

Concert Review: Psychedelic Furs and James, July 31, The Orpheum, Vancouver

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Psychedelic Furs

Co-headlining tours are always funny ones, as you get half the audience really interested in one band and half the audience really interested in the other. Last night, unfortunately, the Orpheum was only half full, so you had a little less than a quarter of the seats filled with James fans and a little over a quarter filled with Psychedelic Furs fans. I’m not sure why this gig wasn’t at a smaller venue – it would have been perfect at the Commodore Ballroom.

James came on first, and performed a set of material mostly from albums they have recorded since they reformed in 2007. They sounded tight and Tim Booth’s voice has not lost any of its power. It was disappointing to not hear more of the old favourites, “Come Home” being the only song they played from back in the day. It sounded fantastic, and only made it more disappointing that they didn’t play one or two more. They finished with “Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)”, their last single before they broke up. They invited audience members up on to the stage, with 30 or so people joining them. It was a great end to the show, but without “Sit Down”, “Laid”, “She’s A Star”, “Gold Mother” or “Born of Frustration”, the audience were left feeling a little frustrated.

Psychedelic Furs were the opposite. They started with “Love My Way” and played hit after hit, including “Heaven” and “Pretty In Pink”. Bassist and founding member Tim Butler even sang along with the crowd to the big tunes. Singer Richard Butler’s voice was as clear and powerful as ever, and the saxophone player, Mars Williams, played his sax like a lead guitarist, powering through tune after tune, and he was even joined by James’ trumpet player on “Sleep Comes Down”. The audience were mostly of an age where they would remember both bands from the heyday of their career, but what the audience lacked in youth, they made up for in enthusiasm.

The Furs did a short encore and the crowd left happy – the one good thing about the theatre not being very full is you get out of there super quick without much of a queue!

Concert Review: Bad Religion, July 25, The Phoenix

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It takes a certain kind of confidence (or cluelessness? Maybe a mix of both?) to ask a band currently onstage and in the midst of a concert to stop the show and autograph your hat, yet some guy in the crowd during Bad Religion‘s show at The Phoenix on Thursday night tried it twice.

The first time, bassist Jay Bentley made the very good point that he’s at work now and he generally doesn’t carry a pen around with him at work, though he did make the concession of wearing the fan’s hat for one song when it was thrown on stage. The guy tried it again later in the set, with singer Greg Graffin repeating the same very good point that bands generally don’t keep pens on them while performing, although really, Graffin seems like the kind of guy who does always have a pen on him. He still signed it for him eventually once another fan produced a pen. I guess it just goes to show that persistence does pay off.

And while asking a band for an autograph mid-set is not recommended, it does demonstrate the level of devotion Bad Religion fans have for the band. By the time the band went on stage, The Phoenix was packed full, with many of the fans up front enthusiastically moshing during their set. Graffin commended them while noting that he gave up the pit long ago, although glancing at that pit, I saw a few in there who looked perhaps a bit too old for moshing. But hey, as Sloan once sang, if it feels good, do it.

With 17 albums released over the course of their nearly 40 year career, the band’s got a large repertoire to work with and they chose well, with the setlist mixing selections off their latest, the aptly titled Age Of Unreason, with classics such as “Suffer”, “Generator”, “Stranger Than Fiction” and “American Jesus” and even stretching back to their very first album for “Fuck Armageddon … This Is Hell.”

Overall, the band put on a satisfying set and everyone went home happy, especially the guy with the signed hat.

Roskilde Festival Review: Whores., Converge, Petrol Girls, July 6

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At one point relatively early on in the band’s set, Whores singer-guitarist Christian Lembach announced to the crowd that it would all be coming to an end soon. Seeing as how the band was barely even 20 minutes into their set, he clearly wasn’t talking about their show. No, he meant it was ALL coming to an end, as in the world and everything in it.

“Don’t you know the apocalypse is coming?” he asked the crowd before adding, “Thanks for coming out. If we’re all gonna die we may as well all party.” That may seem a little grim for a Saturday afternoon, but hey, you don’t really go to see noise rock bands for uplifting messages. Nevertheless, he’s got a point – you might as well party and there was something of a party atmosphere at their show with a small group enthusiastically moshing near the front of the stage. “Look at you animals all mixing it up,” said Lembach as he looked upon the pit approvingly. The band’s aggressive noise rock (I caught hints of Helmet, Unsane, Jesus Lizard and Melvins in their sound) definitely struck the right note for me on a day that got off to a mellow start, pushing me in the direction of many of the heavier acts on the bill for much of the rest of the day.

Hardcore veterans Converge put on one of the heaviest, most intense shows of the day during their set later that night on the Avalon Stage. I don’t think I’ve seen the band live since the early 2000s (possibly even since the Jane Doe tour … I am old) and was impressed to see the band (especially vocalist Jacob Bannon) hasn’t really lost any of the energy from those days.

As much as I was enjoying Converge’s set, I had to cut out early and make my way across to the other end of the festival grounds to check out London’s Petrol Girls, who also put on an intense show with a strong political edge. The band has a strong feminist message in their music and covers several other issues within their lyrics. Though they were playing a festival show, the band made it feel like a gig in some tiny punk club, building up an inclusive atmosphere and a safe space.

A powerful performance from a band that I hope to hear a lot more from in the future.