Concert Review: Sarah Slean (Canwest Cabaret)

Posted on by Gary in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – It’s already autumn before you know it, and the inaugural year of the Canwest Cabaret is here to help us get through the colder patches (or expose us to, depending on how far you need to travel). Set in the Young Performance Center and backdropped by the hip distillery district, the event is a refreshing break designed to offend those head-nodding/booty-shaking shows and trump them with style. Although each show is only for 1 hour, the intimate cabaret setting generates a flare that’s much higher class. Needless to say, it identifies with a different age bracket… but we’ll get to that.

Sarah Slean has been on the playlist for a long time. Even though Wiki labels her piano-pop (and every time the p-word enters the brain it kicks on autonomic revulsion), I love the mindset that the meandering and catchy melodies place me – far more pensive then I’d care to get out of. In hindsight it’s perfect for the cabaret with candle-lit tables full of people slow-sipping their margaritas – where they sit temporarily lovelorn even if he/she’s a chair and an arm-stretch away. Let’s just say the best praise I can give this concert was the fact that I loathed shooting the first 3 songs and actually couldn’t wait for their media-liaison to come over and tell me time’s up – so I can sit down and listen. Her music has certainly grown deeper from her Night Bug days. On the slower songs, Sarah prowled over the piano looking for the right time to strike. “Get Home“, “Shadowland”, and “No Place at All” was all up to par with the recordings. Her voice was crisp, and the 3-piece band worked extremely well to replace some of the guitar scores that were there. Faster songs like “Euphoria” and “Parasol” were also pretty well paced. Seeing the contrabass cut across all the strings in a motion that looked like slitting-throats was very entertaining. And if I was a betting man, I’d put $20 on the drums having much more fun than the other two.

All in all it was a very fun show, but I guess now it comes to the part – I wished the crowd was younger. This is the “Young” Center, for crying-out-loud. I saw silver-haired veterans dotting the tables as if I was at TSO, and the few people in their 20-30s were tucked away upstairs with me. Is the venue or format inherently prohibitive? Probably not, and maybe it had a lot to do with the fact that the Canwest Cabaret is in infancy – I look forward to seeing Toronto embrace this great series in the next 7 years.

Concert Review: Nick Cave, Oct 1, Kool Haus, Toronto

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 9 Comments

Toronto – I am pretty concerted out right now. Long story short, my friend Nick visited from Edmonton last week to see a bunch of shows – James, Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine, Gemma Hayes, Hot Chip and Nick Cave. I decided to tag along for some of the shows, and man, I might be getting old, but thats a hella lot of concerts to go to. So Wednesday night, I was feeling all tired and grumpy, I threw three INTs in my Madden 09 game (still won though..haha) and the thought of going to the Kool Haus for the third time in a week was about as appealing to me as sitting on a porcupine. However, Nick Cave only comes around once every so often and thus, I said my prayers, drank my milk and ate my vitamins and headed off into the night.

First of all, the Calamari at the Jersey Giant Pub was weak sauce. Seriously. Dry, overcooked and too much batter. If I was a squid, and I died, I would at least want my dead ass carcass to be cooked in a nice proper manner. This chef did lil o’ ten legs no justice in death. Avoid that shit.

Okay, onto the show. Josh always points out that sometimes I write more about the food I eat before the show then the actual show itself. I write that stuff to tell the readers what kind of mood I am in, so they can experience the show from my point of view. Okay, so the show. This was an old crowd. Just like last week at James, there was no ID check and no pat downs at the door. The previous night at Hot Chip (same location), this husky ass woman patted me down so hard I think her palm print is still embedded on my back. So yes, old crowd. I would say the average age for the show tonight was probably 37.5. Grey hair was everywhere, if I was a marketing person for a hair dye company, I would have handed out free samples at the show tonight …you might have gotten new customers. The show was sold out, which I thought was impressive.

The Bad Seeds came on promptly at 10:15, wearing nice suit and outfits and stuff. Totally professional. There were two (!) drumsets, a bassist, keyboardist and a guitarist. However, they all used a variety of instruments thru out the night, so I can’t really label them as just that. There was a guy up there who looked like Rasputin, as well..if Rasputin was wearing a suit. Shortly after, Nick Cave strolled onto the stage to a rather large applause and immediately launched into “Night of the Lotus Eaters”. The Bad Seeds are a solid band, they sounded rather crisp and the timing was perfect for almost everything. The night was off to a good start. I didn’t even feel compelled to pay eight freakin dollars for a beer.

The second song of the set was the hit single off the latest album (and also the album title) – “Dig Lazarus Dig!!”. Now let me tell you – Nick Cave.. that dude has stage presence. He’s a bit manic, a bit menacing and definitely a showman when he’s out there spewing his ferocious lyrics. He’s all over the stage, pointing at fans in the front row, cowering down and singing right in their faces. This is a man that knows how to deliver his lines. I now understand why they sometimes reference it as “The Church of Nick Cave”. That man sings his songs like he’s a reverend. He tells his tales, like a pastor would tell his church about the tales of the lord (think Paul Dano guy did in There Will Be Blood. We were being given a sermon and the crowd was loving it.

The next hour and a half saw Nick Cave going back and forth between his current music (Hold On To Yourself, We Call Upon The Author, Midnight Man, Moonland) and his hits (Weeping Song, Mercy Seat, Deanna, Tupelo, Love Letter, Ship Song, Red Right Hand, Henry Lee). The crowd was mostly there for his older hits, including a sing along to “Red Right Hand”. Nick Cave’s banter with the crowd was one of the highlights of the night. For example, after one song, he threw his towel into the song later, he asked for it back, which the fan complied. Then he asked her for her name, and then said “Jessica….Keeper of the Towel”. Through out the night, he would throw the towel and then get it back. A nice touch. “Ship Song” was also a request. I think it was written on a sign that a fan brought in, Nick looked at it and said “I guess we could do that”. For a sold out show in the Kool Haus (which looks more and more like a good Halo 3 multiplayer map), the show felt surprisingly intimate.

All in all an excellent show. The band was tight (allbeit a bit loud at times – two drums!), the new album sounds fantastic live, the older tunes held up and I am 100% sure everyone left the show satisfied.

4.478 / 5

ps. I’m freakin tired of the Kool Haus.

ps. no “Where the Wild Roses Grow” either, but that was expected.

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

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 2 Comments

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.


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”


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

here is a link of a review on a previous show