Concert Review: Charlotte Cardin, May 13, Elgin Theatre

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Charlotte Cardin (41)

Charlotte Cardin had a busy week in Toronto recently; two days before she performed at the Junos and walked away with four of their awards, she played two nights in front of sold out crowds at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre. Cardin had last played here back in September 2019 at The Opera House, so to see thousands of fans pack the much larger theatre was a testament to how far she has come in these past few years.

Over the course of the show, Charlotte and her two bandmates would play the entirety of her new album Phoenix with the occasional older essential tracks strewn throughout the setlist. She spoke to the audience early on about how meaningful it was to be able to be touring the album finally – over a year after its release – and how happy she was that we could all hear it live. She said these songs were important to her and to feel the love from everyone as she performed in front of a live audience was something that she had truly been missing.

We got to see several different sides of Cardin throughout the show: rocking out with a guitar through songs like “Daddy,” dancing behind the keys while playing “Main Girl,” or just singing and vibing to the sounds of her drummer and bassist through the cover of Daniel Belanger’s “Fous N’importe Où.” Before she played “Sun Goes Down (Buddy)” a little more than halfway through the performance, the other band members left the stage and she sat on a stool front and center with her acoustic guitar in hand and told us about how it was a song she wrote for a friend in their time of need. Eyes staring off in the distance as she played the heartfelt melody, you could see from the look on her face that she had clearly poured a lot into the song.

When she played “Meaningless” towards the end of the night – the song which she would later go on to win best single of the year for – the back stage lighting, which had been so many different darker hued colours over the course of the night, turned shades of red, orange & yellow, with what looked like a rising sun in the middle of it. Bathed in that light, Charlotte belted out the hit single while the entire audience danced along. It was only fitting to have such strong colours associated with the song, because with an album name like Phoenix, it was a great visual connection to the idea of a majestic bird rising from the ashes.

For an artist who started playing venues like The Great Hall to now playing the Elgin and at the Junos, it will be fun to see where she goes from here in the coming years. As for those awards, Cardin took home Junos for Album of the Year, Pop Album of the Year and Artist of the Year – an impressive feat!
- Kyle Cadogan

Concert Review: Gang Of Youths, May 6, Danforth Music Hall

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Gang of Youths (35)

Gang of Youths brought their engaging, energetic and joy-inducing show in support of their third full length album, Angel in Realtime, to the Danforth Music Hall’s stage.

The six piece Australian band – playing in Canada for the first time in four years – kicked things off with “The Angel of 8th Ave” as frontman and songwriter David Le’aupeue frenetically danced around the stage; smiling, singing and interacting with the audience and the other members of the band.

For an album rooted in heavier matter – David discovering and exploring his fathers full heritage following his passing – the energy of the show was nothing but positive vibes. Over half of the setlist featured songs from the new album, including a beautiful 7 minute version of “Brothers” which found David playing solo on the keyboard with a single stage light shining down on him. Save for a few moments of fans screaming their support, the audience quietly listened as he gave a powerful performance singing about his father who pretended to be only half Samoan to provide his kids a better life. At the end of the first verse, the line goes “our father’s love was unmistakable and he gave us everything he had, and I guess that meant pretending he was half white, to give his kids a better chance.” Ironically, the choice to do so led to David now working to claim his own indigenous identity, with a more full understanding of his heritage.

Gang of Youths (89)

Gang of Youths also made sure to play some of the older hits fans had been dying to hear again live, like “Heart is a Muscle” early on and “Let Me Down Easy” which David stated was about “dancing, drinking and being good to one another.” The crowd was clearly loving the performance – but there was an amazing moment late in the set when David made his way off the stage and walked through the audience before being crowd surfed back to the stage. This was one of those concert moments that can be so impactful for fans and has been missing these past few years with social distancing bringing more caution to live shows; so on a night when the lead was singing about being good to one another, it was meaningful to see him in amongst the people he was telling to do so.

As the band wrapped up their last song before eventually coming back out for an incredibly punchy, dancy pair of encore songs, the fans asked for them to keep playing not by chanting for an encore, but by going back to singing the ‘doot doots’ of “Let Me Down Easy”, sticking with it for a couple minutes until the band re-emerged. For a group that traveled halfway around the world to be here, Toronto made sure to show them how happy we all were that they had made the trip and we will be eagerly awaiting their return!
- Kyle Cadogan

Hot Docs Review: Band (Alfrun Ornolfsdottir, 2022)

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Everyone has their own definiton of success. In the realm of performing musicians, some might strive to be mega-pop stars selling out stadiums while others will be satisfied with playing DIY basement punk shows for the rest of their lives, but odds are that all of them want some measure of recognition for their efforts. This notion of what it means to succeed, or to “make it”, is at the core of Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir’s Band.

Örnólfsdóttir is not only the director of this film, but as a member of The Post Performance Blues Band (or PPBB for short), she’s also one of its major protagonists. With all three members having been at this for awhile, they begin to wonder whether it’s worth it to continue playing to minimal crowds while also balancing their family lives as well as their other artistic pursuits. So they give themselves an ultimatum – if they’re not a success within one year, then the PPBB will call it quits. And if they fail, then so be it.

Along the way, the band meets up with a cast of colourful characters who offer up advice or assistance in one form or another, including their collaborator Petur, whose role in the PPBB as a sort of Schrodinger’s Cat of bandmates (is he or isn’t he in the band?) is one of the sources of tension within the film.

In a brief intro before the screening, Örnólfsdóttir advised the audience to just “have fun” while watching and while there are some moments of drama and tension along the way, Band is ultimately a lot of fun. The members of PPBB (and Petur) are all quite likeable and the live footage of the band in action were something to behold.

And those who stuck around last night were treated to an extra bonus as the band took to the stage post-screening for a short performance that demonstrated up close and personal what they’re all about. Part performance art, part modern dance, part electro/punk/pop/whatever, the Post Performance Blues Band put on an entertaining mini-set that definitely captured the crowd’s attention. I’d count that as a success.

Concert Review: Luna Li, April 29, Axis Club

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“This is so special. I’m so happy to finally play Toronto.”

So said Luna Li near the outset of her show at Axis Club last night, though even if she hadn’t said it explicitly, it was clear that she was indeed very happy to be playing a hometown show.

And what a show it was. Playing songs from her debut album Duality alongside a few from her breakout Jams EP, Luna Li put on a solid performance that showcased her skills not only as a songwriter and guitarist, but as a harpist and violinist. There was confetti too, and we all know confetti makes everything more fun.

Sure, Luna Li has played plenty of shows around Toronto over the past few years, but playing a show to a sold out crowd after it had been postponed a couple of times definitely made this one seem a bit more special.

“We have played so many of these songs in the shittiest basements, the wackest venues, playing to like, two people,” she noted. “And now we’re here.” This show definitely had the feel of a homecoming. Here’s hoping Luna Li plays some more hometown shows soon enough.