Concert Review: Mary Timony, June 12, Horseshoe Tavern

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If there was a doubt left in anyone’s mind that Mary Timony is a bona fide badass rock n’ roll guitar hero, surely they were put to rest after seeing her performance at The Horseshoe on Monday night. After already impressing  with a full set of classic numbers from her days in the band Helium, Timony then invited Rebecca Cole, her former bandmate from Wild Flag, to come out and join her on lead vocal in an encore performance of Yes’ “Long Distance Runaround.” My nerdy, prog rock loving heart grew three sizes upon hearing Timony and her top notch band’s rendition of the old prog chestnut.

But while I’d probably pay good money to see a Mary Timony Plays Yes tour, that song was just the icing on the cake after seeing Timony revisit the songs that she last played with Helium some twenty-ish years ago – songs like “XXX,” “Pat’s Trick,” “Honeycomb,” and “Superball” to name a few. Though I was never a huge Helium fan back in the day, I always appreciated their stuff and followed Timony’s career through her solo work and her time with Wild Flag and Ex Hex. After seeing Mary Timony play Helium on Monday night, I would now definitely count myself as a big fan.

Here’s a video of Timony and band doing “Long Distance Runaround” with guest Joan Wasser at New York’s Mercury Lounge on June 9:

Concert Review: Everclear, Vertical Horizon, June 11, Danforth Music Hall

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During Everclear’s performance of “Normal Like You” (the third song off of So Much For The Afterglow, the album the band was touring behind in honour of its 20th anniversary), there was a mass singalong of the lyric “I will never be normal like you.” A quick survey of the crowd immediately after suggested to me that they all looked pretty damn normal, relatively speaking. I guess 20 years might do that to an Everclear fan – eventually, somebody’s going to buy you a garden and a new life and there you are, all normal and stuff all of a sudden. Another sign that everyone is 20 years older came when singer Art Alexakis exhorted the crowd to jump during “Everything To Everyone” and well, everyone did not jump. That’s hard on the back and the arches, don’tcha know. Anyways, we’re all getting older, so I won’t belabor the point, but I will note that Alexakis made an old guy joke later in the night at his own expense when he quipped, “Look out, they gave grandpa a whammy bar.”

The band performed So Much For The Afterglow in it’s entirety, taking a break halfway through the album to perform a handful of songs from other albums, including “Heroin Girl,” “Heartspark Dollarsign,” “Fire Maple Song,” and the “The Man Who Broke His Own Heart” before coming back to the second half of the album and returning for an encore that ended things off with their biggest hit “Santa Monica.” I found it a bit weird that they would separate the album into “side 1″ and “side 2″ seeing as how the album they were playing was released when CDs were very much still a thing and vinyl was not really yet a thing again. But I guess the band are all old enough to remember vinyl the first time around anyways and splitting it up into two halves gave them the chance to play a few more songs from throughout their career. It probably also helped to split things up since the “second side” of Afterglow didn’t really have any hits.

Speaking of songs that people don’t necessarily know, Vertical Horizon singer Matt Scannell was kind enough to warn the crowd that they were about to play a brand new, unreleased song and sort of ask permission to play it. “I know it’s weird to see a band and hear a song you’ve never heard before, but we hope you like it. Because writing songs is my favourite thing to do and I don’t ever want to stop.” I can only speak for myself, but having never paid much attention to the band, they were practically all new songs to me, and I’d wager that most were probably fine with hearing the new song since several of them likely only know a maximum of two songs by the band anyways. Scannell seemed to acknowledge as much when he thanked the “stalwart few” who were singing along earlier in the set and jokingly encouraged everyone to sing along even if they didn’t know the words. I’ve always thought of the band as nothing more than a footnote in the annals of ’90s rock, but there were indeed some hardcore Vertical Horizon supporters up front and it was kind of heartwarming nonetheless to see how appreciative Scannell and his bandmates were of the fans.

Concert Review: Austra, May 27, Echo Beach

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Last year, the CBC Music Festival really came through with an impressive lineup featuring such names as Alvvays, Tanya Tagaq, and The New Pornographers. By comparison, this year’s lineup left a little something to be desired. Walk Off The Earth? I get that they’re quite popular but that popularity is largely built on gimmicky YouTube videos and live, they’re so relentlessly cheerful that they make Up With People seem like GG Allin. It’s not my cup of tea by a longshot, but hey, give the people what they want I guess. Regardless, there were still some intriguing names on the lineup, and in my books, the highlight of the day was easily Austra’s performance on the Q Stage.

After an introduction by Q host Tom Power, (who seemed strangely preoccupied with a t-shirt cannon) the band started things off with the title track off their excellent new album Future Politics and definitely made a strong impression on both the uninitiated and the hardcore fans up front. New songs like “Utopia” and “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself” blended seamlessly with earlier tracks like “Lose It” and “Beat And The Pulse.” And while the band’s moody electronic sound is probably better suited to a late night performance in some dimly lit nightclub, they still put on quite the show and the songs sounded just as good during daylight hours on an outdoor stage.

Also, I’m not gonna lie – that t-shit cannon was a little bit cool.

Concert Review: The XX, May 23, Echo Beach

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The xx forever

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Man, The XX were awesome on Tuesday. It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since I’ve seen them live, but they have improved a lot since I saw them on a bill with Hot Chip. In town to promote their excellent new album I See You, The XX played a super fun, confident and epic set that basically screams “we should headline festivals now”. As everyone has noted already, this rendition of the XX seems happier than the previous moody version and maybe we all bought into that narrative but the show they put on essentially became a full on party.

It’s amazing to see how good Jamie XX’s production is. Even if he’s behind Romy and Oliver on the stage, there is no mistake that his influence has grown within the band as his status grows. The dude turned “Shelter” into a dance tune and added additional depth to each song. As excellent as their albums are, The XX are actually better live, which is hard to believe. Highlights for me included “Infinity” (one of my fave XX songs), the dance version of “Shelter,” the set closer “Loud Places” and the encore, which consisted of “On Hold,” which is as close to a stadium anthem as you’ll get with the XX. Just for good measure, they also played “Intro” in the encore as well.

It’s been seven years since I last saw the XX. There’s no way I will wait that long again.