Concert Review: St. Vincent, The Horseshoe, Aug 8

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Everything | 1 Comment


Toronto – St. Vincent played the Horseshoe last Saturday night. It’s been a few years since their last visit, and having been to their last Toronto show (also at the ‘Shoe), it was interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t. Still present is lead-singer/guitarist Annie Clark ‘s unpretentious and cute stage banter, but now she has a larger following. Not only was the band bigger, but so was the audience. This time around she played to a sold out crowd after the recent release of her 2nd album, Actor.

If you recognize this song, maybe you could yell the name of it, or clap. Nevermind, do whatever you want, I don’t want to micro-manage you.   – Annie Clark

Seeing St. Vincent in 2007 at the Horseshoe just after the release of Marry Me, her debut album, was one of the standout rock shows of the year for me. I was very much looking forward to her playing songs from her new album along with a healthy dose of songs from the first. Although they did play a smattering of songs from the debut, I would have loved to hear a few more; and the crowd was not far behind me. They did start the set with the title track from the Marry Me album, but I could tell almost immediately that a lot of the energy that I remembered from their last show was curiously absent. The first song trundled from start to finish and seemed set the pace for the rest of the show.

One of the things I remember most vividly about her last Toronto appearance was how this unassuming diminuitive young lady could shred guitar like nobody’s business. She rocked out on an extended, inspired, and gritty solo providing a definite wow factor that had the crowd thinking, “How can a girl that tiny rock a guitar like that?”. I was a little disappointed that Annie’s rock guitar skills weren’t as prominent as they were the last time. Despite the sold out crowd at the beginning, it felt like the ‘Shoe thinned out by the end of the set.

Annie did still have her distinctive two-mic setup: one mic for innocent girl voice, one mic for bad girl voice (distorted). It makes for a fun time watching her switch between the two mic’s. In addition to the standard rythm section, she had a violin player and a woodwinds player (sax, flute, and other instruments). Under normal circumstances I think the additions to the band add a pleasing padding to Annie’s haunting lyrics and soulful songwriting. This time around I felt we were only getting a fraction of what this band is capable of on a good night.

It’s the nature of live music that sometimes you’re “on” and sometimes you’re not. Maybe the band can’t find their groove, or they can’t strike a connection with the crowd. This can lead to a lacklustre performance. Despite a lot of success in the interim, St. Vincent just wasn’t able to bring the same kind of raw energy that was on display during their last visit. Here’s hoping we’ll catch them on a better night next time. I’ll see you there.

SummerWorks Review: Montparnasse [Sheep No Wool Theatre Company]

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Summerworks, Theatre | Leave a comment

Montparnasse Program Picture

An opinion on nudity in theatre/film/whatever: I don’t especially mind it. I usually find a lot of nudity gratuitous, and lately I seem to be seeing it largely for either shock value or emphasis on emotional turmoil, that kind of thing, which gets a little old after a while. But for the most part I don’t take offense to it, nor do I find a lot of novelty in nudity for nudity’s sake.

Montparnasse, running right now as part of the SummerWorks Festival here in Toronto, does manage something I haven’t seen for a while: nudity that’s not really about the nudity. It’s not that Maev Beaty and Erin Shields, the playwrights and cast of Montparnasse, take their clothes off in a cavalier way. It’s more that one or the other of them is naked for almost the entire running time of Montparnasse, but it’s not especially important. That takes a whole lot of acting chops and a lot of self-confidence, and I sure as hell couldn’t do it, but Beaty and Shields both pull it off with relative ease. It’s impressive; to spend time on stage performing a play set in 1920’s Paris, dealing with subjects like friendship, identity, and the nature of art and inspiration is one thing, but doing it while naked half the time is something else.

But while Beaty and Shields’s performances in Montparnasse are great, the material they’ve written for it is merely good. The plot is pretty straightforward, though the setting is pretty interesting: Amelia and Margaret are expats beginning their lives anew in Paris in the 1920’s, during the inter-war period when the city was teeming with all kinds of artists, sculptors, and painters and was crazy with culture and nightlife, especially in Montparnasse. Of course, if you don’t know much art history, names like Man Ray, Henry Miller and Juan Miro that are sprinkled throughout the script won’t mean a whole lot to you, but even if you know just a little bit it’s enjoyable. Margaret is working as a nude model and muse for painters; Amelia wants to be a painter but soon ends up in the modelling racket to make some money. They plot a course through the hedonistic cultural scene in the city, Amelia trying to find her artistic muse and growing more comfortable in her skin and in the city, Margaret getting wilder and wilder in her indulgences but coming close to her breaking point. In the end it comes to a slightly predictable end, with the two women’s respective jealousy and ego rearing their ugly heads, and a couple of the narrative devices didn’t work too well for me, particularly when one actress would tell a story, and the other would play out various roles within it.

It’s a good piece of work, though, and with a little development has the potential be a great one.


Montparnasse has three more shows at SummerWorks: August 12th at 8:30, August 14th at 6:30, and August 16th at 2:30, all at Theatre Passe Muraille.

SummerWorks Festival Preview

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Summerworks, Theatre | Leave a comment


Toronto – This week sees the beginning of the SummerWorks Festival in Toronto, a growing theatre/music/multimedia performance expo from August 6th (hey, that’s today!) until the 16th. Centred mostly around the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst), Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave, near Bathurst & Queen), and The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West), with performance gallery events at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West) and a handful of events going on at a few other venues, SummerWorks is celebrating their 19th year by giving us a media pass. It’s also their second year under Artistic Director Michael Rubenfeld, he of the excellent production The Book of Judith. Did my favourable review of that show help facilitate our media pass? Eh, probably not, but I’m in a conspiracy-seeing kind of mood today…

Anyway, Panic Manual will have reviews of shows all festival long. Currently on my schedule is something like 18 theatre shows and a couple of music shows, this alongside a trip to Niagara Falls this weekend, starting tonight with a show called Montparnasse at Theatre Passe Muraille (if you’re going to it and you see a guy there by himself looking tired and daunted by just what he’s gotten himself into, come over and say hey).

Since these are all new shows, I’m not sure how many recommendations I can make. However, since this is primarily a music blog, you might be interested in The Nick Drake Project, a play with music and inspired by 60’s folkie Nick Drake. You may also be particularly interested in the music portion of the festival, which features, in order of performance: Miracle Fortress with Karkwa (tonight), Think About Life and DD/MM/YYYY (tomorrow), The Got to Get Got with Oh No Forest Fires (Saturday), Still Life Still and Kids on TV (Sunday), Boys Who Say No and Foxjaw (August 11th), Matthew Barber with Claire Jenkins (12th), The D’Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers (13th), Panic Manual favourites Sunparlour Players with Josh Reichmann Oracle Band (14th), and Germans and Great Bloomers (15th). All music shows take place at the Theatre Centre.

New this year is SummerWalks, a series of three Queen West walking tours leaving from the Factory Theatre courtyard both weekends of the festival. For only $5 you can get a guided tour of the area based on a different theme. Also, spend a day checking out the Performance Gallery at the Gladstone, a series of performance art events that are 5-8 minutes long, cycle throughout the night, and is pay-what-you-can.

As I said, a lot of these plays are new so I can’t really recommend many without seeing them, but some of the stuff I thought sounded most interesting from their descriptions on the SummerWorks website are Apricots, Toronto Noir, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Piano Tuner, The Middle Place, and I’ll Be There to Kill You, all of which are among the shows I’ll be seeing, so if you want some guy’s recommendations for things to see, keep checking in here for my show reviews.

Oh, one show you should see is Impromptu Splendor, put on by The National Theatre of the World. An improvised play put on by three cast members, the guy to watch for is Ron Pederson. A cast member of MadTV for a couple of seasons, I used to see Ron do improv every week when I lived in Edmonton with the city’s legendary live improvised soap opera Die Nasty. He’s a funny, funny guy.

Check out the SummerWorks website at and keep watching this space for play and show reviews.

Concert Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, August 5, Kool Haus

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 6 Comments


Toronto – Touring in promotion of their latest (and probably greatest) album “It’s Blitz!”, the YYY rolled into town with two sold out dates at the Kool Haus with maximum velocity – their singles “Zero” and “Heads will Roll” are on all the mainstream rock stations here and well, its safe to say they have made it. The sold out crowd at the Kool Haus ranged from angsty teenagers to cool brookyln wannabe hipsters to grizzled rockers, all liking the band for different reasons, and all ready to bow to the Tao of Karen O.

The band went on at roughly 10:15. The stage resembled a cross of a high school prom (confetti included) and rocky picture horror show, with a big gigantic eyeball, which sadly, was not put into play during the show. I don’t even remember what song they started off with but they did cover material from all the albums, including “Machine” off their EP from way back when. Other oldies include Y-Control, Rich, Man, an acoustic version of Maps and the set closer “Date with the Night”. Maps, in particular was delightful because it induced a Kool Haus singalong, no doubt the songs inclusion in either Guitar Hero or Rock Band probably helped out a bit. Newer material like Zero (with an extended intro) and Heads will Roll got the best reactions I say (besides Maps), but I am sure the new YYY fans will look into the back catalog after the show.

I would recommend going to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to everyone. Karen O is just so awesome on stage. She poses, she dances, she twirls, she sings to all sides of the stage, she swallows the mic, she dresses in weird clothes with tassles, she jumps around.. she pretty much does everything and it all looks so cool and natural. It’s quite mesmerizing, the band is just crazy good live and they definitely know how to whip up a good show. They say they loved Toronto, and I’m pretty sure we love them too.


Here is the set list, thanks to Tanisha – I also have a very bad memory, as I thought they played Rich and Man, clearly, not.

Dull Life (It’s Blitz!)
Gold Lion (Show Your Bones)
Black Tongue (Fever to Tell)
Shame and Fortune (It’s Blitz!)
Kiss Kiss (Isis [EP])
Heads Will Roll (It’s Blitz!)
Machine (Machine [EP])
Skeletons (It’s Blitz!)
Hysteric (It’s Blitz!)
Cheated Hearts (Show Your Bones)
Zero (It’s Blitz!)
Turn Into (Show Your Bones)
Y Control (Fever to Tell)

Maps – Acoustic (Fever to Tell)
Honeybear (Show Your Bones)
Date with the Night (Fever to Tell)