Concert Review: Hot Chip, Sept 30, Kool Haus, Toronto

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Toronto – Last nght, Hot Chip visited Toronto for the second time this year. If you read my review on their show here in April, you will know that I really enjoyed myself at the last show. For those not in the know, Hot Chip is an electro band that excels in making cool music for you to dance to. Go to their myspace page, or hype machine, to find a bunch of tunes by them.

This time around, Hot Chip played the Kool Haus, a venue that has a much larger capacity then the Phoenix. One of the surprises of the night was how empty the venue was. I kind of expected a sold out show, that was not the case. Tokyo Police Club and Weezer playing the ACC a few blocks down probably stole a good chunk of people. The venue was roughly about 2/3 full, which was great, more space to dance. I think, to truly enjoy an electronic act live, you have to go in with the mindset that you are gonna bust a move at the first sign of a bass line. Otherwise, you are there just head bobbin or something, wondering if you should be dancing, then thinking its awkward that you just started dancing after standing around for so long, then you become self conscious, and you retreat to your regular head bobbin mode. No F’N Fun.

Hot Chip took the stage at 10:15, to a decent ovation. A simple hello from the singer and they immediately launched in the Caribbean vibes of “One More Thought”. This time around, Hot Chip had a drummer, I am not sure if they had one at the Phoenix. This definitely gave the live versions of their songs some variation. The band pretty much played all the hits over the next hour and a half, including another incredible rendition of “Over and Over”. It even prompted my friend Nick to say “That was the best live song I have ever heard”. He’s a bigger music snob then me, so take it for what it’s worth. “Over and Over” is incredible live. Its got a killer beat, sing-a-long qualities and just a great buildup. You know as soon as the song starts people are just waiting to hit the massive chorus line, but Hot Chip takes their time getting there and by the time the drums kick in for the “over and over and over” chorus, people are ready to explode. Simply awesome. That song was a highlight last time they were here, and that did not differ this time around.

One of the best things Hot Chip did last night was have a good mix of kickass dance tunes, followed by slower numbers. This is good for resting/catching your breath. For every “Ready for the Floor”, you would get a followup “Wrestlers” or something. Good tactics.

I thought the sound was a bit muffled for awhile and the bass wasn’t nearly as loud as it should be. Those would be my complaints for the night. There was no “Colours” though, which was a mild disappointment for some I guess.

After a cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, Hot Chip left the stage, leaving the crowd happy, sweaty and exhausted. That’s a sign of a good show.

4.5/5

Here is kinda what I am talking about with Over and Over

Concert Review: My Bloody Valentine, Sept 25, Kool Haus

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 6 Comments

Toronto – Thursday’s My Bloody Valentine concert broke down into two things – those who wore ear plugs, and those who decided they were too cool or too rock n roll to wear ear plugs at a concert. Fortunately for me, I was part of the former. For those not in the know, My Bloody Valentine is a highly regarded shoe gaze band from the late 80s. Highly regarded enough to charge fifty bucks a ticket and still pack the Kool Haus. They specialize in using distortion, reverb and other guitar effects to create what is essentially, a wall of sound. Anyways, they broke up a long time ago and this was one of those popular reunion tours. According to some people, they are the loudest band in the world.

Having known this, I made sure I had earplugs before entering the Kool Haus, the loudness of the impending show was further cemented by the fact that they were handing out free earplugs at the doors and the guy was like ‘you will need these’. Yay. A quick glance at the stage setup was enough to see that this is true – over ten amps standing side by side. Yup. Wall of Sound tonight. Now I won’t pretend to be the biggest MBV fan in the world, so I am just basing this review on what I know. The band came on shortly after 10 pm, to a solid occasion. Kevin Shields stood about 30 feet away from Bilinda Butcher at the front of the stage, and Debbie Gouge stood in the back near the drummer. That’s a lot of space. They immediately launched into some song off Loveless, accompanied by a blistering light show and some very c86-esque video footage being projected to the back wall.

The next 85 minutes saw the band play thru pretty much every song you’d want to hear off Loveless and Isn’t Anything. The concert seemed to get louder and louder. I looked to my left and saw some poor soul go thru the entire show with his hands plugging his ears. Yup. Satisfied fan right there. As my friend Nick pointed out, there seemed to be a huge disconnection between the band, the crowd and everything, really. I don’t think the members of MBV talked to each other once during the stage, and they were pretty much content with standing in one spot, playing guitar, casually singing (10 points to one person who could make out any lyric sang last nite) and yea, just being all motionless. I guess this is Shoegaze. Compared with the over exuberance of the James show two nites ago, yes, it definitely paled in audience participation. However, they are two very different acts. The light show was insane, it was really hard to look at the stage at times, most of the time I just closed my eyes and listened, maybe that was the intention.

I think most people were satisfied with the set up until the last song, when Kevin Shields said “this is our last song”. So they launch into “They Made Me Realize” and about 3 minutes in, they changed from the song to just..noise. This MASSIVE noise. It was like being inside a jet engine. I don’t know what hit me. It was so FN loud. People with ear plugs were covering their ears. People without earplugs were frozen in pain. Babies were crying, little birds were going extinct. I dont think I have ever felt my body shake at a concert because of the noise, but it did. So you take it all in. I’ll admit, the first few minutes of this noise, felt cool but after minute six or seven, it got ridiculous and by minute 12, we left. According to Frank at Chromewaves, the noise went on for 24 freakin minutes. I am sure some people are hearing jingle bells in their ears today.

So how was the show overall? I turn the rating to my friend Nick, who flew here from Edmonton to go see them, and even bought the ugly ass shirt they were selling. He said (I’m paraphrasing) “Even I would have to give it a thumbs down, there seemed to be a huge disconnect between the band and the noise at the end was a bit over the top”

2/5

ps. my friend Kelly said they were playing at 128 dB

here is a link of a review on a previous show

Concert Review: James, Phoenix Theatre, Sept 23

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 11 Comments

Toronto – Wow. What a show. It is once in a blue moon when a classic band that you really wanted to see strolls through town. I suspect I speak for the sold out crowd at the Phoenix Theatre when I say its been too long since the Manchester band James last played Toronto. In fact, I don’t even know when they last came to town. Now I list James among the bands that are on my must see list (along with Pulp, Suede, Blur, Manics…) so this review might be a bit bias because I have such a strong affinity for them. For a quick intro to the band, James is a Brit band that formed in 1981 (when I was 1). Since then, they have released 11 albums while never really attaining super stardom. Their music is mainly along the pop-rock variety, often with a nice buildup to a soaring, majestic sing-along chorus. You might know them for the American Pie theme song “Laid” or pub classic “Sit Down”. You might not. Das Not Matter.

So lets talk about the show. First of all, this might be the oldest audience I have ever been around. How old, you say? Well .. there was no security at the door. I just strolled in. No ID checks, no pat downs, just a friendly hello. WTF? Seriously, most times at the Phoenix, I get patted down so hard I feel like smoking a cigarette and feel guilty for not knowing the security persons name. This time, nothing. I would say the average age of this crowd was 35 – 40. Yup. We even joked that if James came on at 11, half the people would have to go home, because their babysitter probably was done for the night at that time. Seriously, it was a nice, kind crowd. No one fighting for space, nothing. Tickets outside were selling for 100$ a pop, so this was definitely a hot ticket.

Unkle Bob opened. Who? I don’t know. Whatever. At around 9:45 or so, James came out to a great ovation, Tim Booth still looks like a serial killer, but who cares. Tonight, he would kill us with his voice and his tunes. Starting off the night with an indian yell and “Born Of Frustration”, the concert officially took off. The crowd was crazy the entire night, definitely one of the most appreciative crowds I have seen. No arm folding and head nodding here. The band sounded tight. I didn’t even know there was seven of them. Either way, they were crisp and Tim Booth’s voice still sounds great. He dances like a mad man and has a lot more stage presence then I expected. This was clearly a band that knows it shit. After a few new tunes off Hey Ma, the band launched into “Fred Astaire”, the lone entry from the underrated Millionaires album. I don’t think they played anything from “Please to Meet You” though.

The rest of the night was just a buffet of James hits (mixed with new tunes). Songs played included “She’s A Star”, “Waltzing Along”, “Say Something” and “Destiny Calling”. Honestly, I lost track. There were so many. The end of the set went like this: James launches into Sometimes. The crowd sings along. The band stops playing music, the crowd keeps on singing along. Louder and louder. three or four minutes later – the opening riff for Laid plays and the crowd goes nuts. Two encores and a “Come Home” later, the crowd goes home happy. Even better, James tells everyone they will be back next year. Pancakes.

4.95/5 – incredible show, lots of energy, great musicianship, great songs, okay venue.

Set list courtesy of the boys at wearejames.com

Born of Frustration
Oh My Hear
Waterfall
Just Like Fred Astaire (with Michael Kulas)
Destiny Calling (with Michael Kulas)
Five-0 (with Michael Kulas)
Bubbles
I Wanna Go Home
Out To Get You
Upside
Hey Ma
Say Something
Ring the Bells
Sometimes
Laid

Don’t Wait That Long
She’s a Star
Come Home

Top Of The World

They didn’t play Tommorrow. My favorite tune, so I knock off 0.05.

Concert Review: The French Kicks, Horseshoe Tavern, Sept 17

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Toronto – The French Kicks are a New York based indie melodramatic pop act. The bands they list their influences as Pixies, The Kinks, The Cure and Joy Division. The band came to the Horseshoe Tavern Wednesday night to promote their 4th album – Swimming. I didn’t really know too much about the band heading into the show. I like a couple of their tunes, including ‘Trial of the Century’, ‘One More Time’ and ‘Said So What’. That was enough for me to go, it was only 13 bucks too (two beers). I last saw the French Kicks in December 2004, when they, The Unicorns and Hot Hot Heat played to a sold out show at the Opera House. I distinctly remember singer Matthew Stinchcomb jumping on top of a bar and rocking out during the Hot Hot Heat set, then going on stage and diving into the crowd as well. That was a good show.

So how was this show? It was alright. The French Kicks really do wear their Cure influences well. The dreamy pop sound, the little keyboard bits and the vocals all have that 80s type of pop rock sound to them. The only problem I found was this – while they have some good tunes, the French Kicks never really have the songs to kick a show into that extra gear. The crowd is energetic, and there were definitely some big French Kick fans their, but I found that the songs just seemed to reach a certain energy level – enough to keep your head nodding, but not enough to get you going crazy. I guess that’s their music type, but you can see the half full crowd was primed for some lapses of insanity. Older tunes like the aforementioned ‘Trial of the Century’ got a greater response then their new stuff (which dominated the set), but a friend of mine was disappointed with the fact that they didn’t play ‘1985’.

Overall, it was a decent show for Wednesday night.

2.5/5