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.
Sondre Lerche has a riveting stage presence. You can listen to his records all you want, but to fully appreciate him you have to see him perform live. To watch this clean cut, polite, soft spoken, downright evanescent Norwegian man light up the stage for two hours is a thing of beauty (If you’ve ever seen the music video for two way monologue you know what I’m talking about – the man glows – he looks like he’s actually giving off light).
Lerche played to an enamored crowd at Lincoln Hall on Saturday. Along with crowd favorites “Two Way Monologue” and “Go Right Ahead” (which includes one of my favorite lyrics ‘if you want to party down/you gotta RSVP’), Lerche pulled heavily from his new album Please. Having seen Sondre Lerche three years ago when he played Lincoln Hall, I knew to expect a fantastic show, but I’d forgotten the conversational gems the man drops at his shows:
“Our van smells like sulfur. Turns out it’s the car and not us, we were relieved to find out, because let me tell you, touring gentlemen is not exactly a delicate scent.”
and after some laughter from the crowd:
“No seriously, spend a little time in our van and you’ll see what I mean. No wait, that’s creepy, don’t do that. Have a little respect for yourself.”
Lerche was backed by his drummer and bassist as well as the four members of the opening band TEEN. I was having some trouble thinking how I would describe the band but luckily the guy behind me missed the opener and turning to the girl next to him he asked “who are those girls on stage?” to which she responded “Dude, those are the rad rocker chicks who opened for Sondre.” Yep – a perfect description. Led by guitarist/vocalist Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson (formerly of Here We Go Magic) in her businesswoman slacks and sparkly gold blazer, the female foursome (three of whom are sisters) warmed up the crowd with their unique brand of indie rock, and doubled as back up singers for Lerche. After seeing more bands than I can count that are all male with a token female dinging the triangle, it was awesome to see these ladies dominating the stage with the only male counterpart being Lerche’s drummer subbing in on a couple songs to shake a little tambourine.
Lerche was at his best when he had the whole crew behind him – as he did for his final song (pre-finale) “Legends” off his new album. Leading the crowd into a “Whyyyyyyyyyyy-oh-why-oh-why-oh” sing-a-long, the song was a perfect wrap-up to the show and representative of the night overall – a solid mixture of edgy and cathartic but still lively and fun.
Sometimes you leave a band behind, and sometimes, a band leaves you behind.
This was the ultimate theme for me last Wednesday night as I saw Placebo live.
To me, Placebo was always this upstart band in the late nineties with a love of Bowie, a mischievous, androgynous frontman and a swath of lyrics that are mysterious at best and nonsensical at worse. I mean, c’mon, look at some of the lyrics of Pure Morning:
A friend in needs a friend indeed, A friend with weed is better, A friend with breasts and all the rest, A friend who’s dressed in leather,
A friend in needs a friend indeed, A friend who’ll tease is better , Our thoughts compressed, Which makes us blessed, And makes for stormy weather,
A friend in needs a friend indeed, My Japanese is better, And when she’s pressed she will undress, And then she’s boxing clever
Seriously, what the hell was that about? Nobody really knows.
Back in the day, they were fresh, different and exciting. Their loud and aggressive sound was everything that Britpop wasn’t and let’s all face it, Britpop at that time had withered down to the likes of Cast and Gay Dad. I was quite a fan of them up to their third third album after which for some reason, I started to think they were old news and decided to look into other directions.
Yet, they moved on. The concert I saw on Wednesday was completely not what I had expected. Being old and seeing mostly older bands, I had expected that Placebo would follow a standard pattern – some new songs, old song, new song and then all the hits … which in my mind were tracks like “Pure Morning”, “Nancy Boy” and “36 Degrees.” Instead, Placebo did follow a similar pattern, only instead, their hits section was filled with songs after the early 00′s.
It was at this moment I realized that while I had partially abandoned Placebo as a band in 2003 or so, the band had continued on and dare I say, improved their material (and success) in the past decade.
I first saw Placebo in 2001 in Edmonton during their Black Market Music tour. Back then, they were an impressive three piece band. Since then, they have grown to include additional musicians. The group played over 90 minutes at Sound Academy and sounded rather good. Brian Molko seemed more comfortable as a front man than he was almost a decade and a half ago, egging on the fans at the right time and generally appreciating the fans as a whole.
The group played tracks from their entire discography, including tunes I have never heard of off their most recent release Loud Like Love which was pretty successful globally. The new material (by which I mean, music I hadn’t heard) all sounded pretty great and, dare I say, Molko’s songwriting has improved dramatically. The crowd at the Sound Academy loved it anyway. They play a really good brand of rock that was perfect for a stressed out individual such as myself.
Obviously, I was there for some of the older material and despite it’s limited appearances, it still gave me chills. “Every You and Every Me” was great despite sounding slightly rushed. You can almost make a case that it was one of the defining songs of the late 90s, having been a big hit and also being the feature song from Cruel Intentions, one of the more defining movies for the young’uns of the 90s (despite being based on a story from the 1700s).
My other favorite moment from the show was during the encore, when they sang their incredible cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” Placebo has always done great covers (check out their version of T-Rex’s “20th Century Boy”). It is one of my favorite covers ever and to hear it live was great. It also brought back memories of the OC, since it was the track that started off season 4 after Marissa had died in a contract dispute accident (Neither the show or Mischa Barton survived that one. I made this joke five years ago sadly: http://www.panicmanual.com/2009/01/30/placebo-running-up-that-hill/)
Anyways, I am rambling, but to summarize: Placebo – still good live as ever, have released many good songs since their initial push and I’m sad I didn’t really know those tracks because it would have made for a smashing good time instead of merely a good time.
You know what is under-rated as a music genre? The Indian funk scene. Thank goodness Red Baraat has a strong grasp on what is needed and what rocks. The diverse octet rocked the stage of the delightful Hamilton venue in Washington DC this weekend with toe-tapping North indian bhangra rhythms seamlessly melded with the best of the jazz, go-go, and hip-hop worlds – culminating in a sound that was part funky, part Indian, and all good.
The audience, equally delightfully varied in age, gender, ethnicity, and clothing (apparel ranged from tye-dye to feathered hats to suits) knew they were in for a treat when the MC for the night announced: “Now folks, there will likely be no quiet, intimate moments in this show, but if there are, and you feel the need to talk to your friend, neighbors, whoever…. just don’t.” True to the intro, the band left little time for small talk, launching into an energetic set that channeled the vibrancy of the Indian culture and the energy of their Brooklyn homebase.
Long story short, the dance floor was filled instantly, the crowd was smiling constantly, and the Hamilton can add another successful show to their record.