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

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

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

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

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.


Steam Whistle Unsigned – The Burning Hell

Posted on by Wade in Concerts, Everything | 2 Comments

the burning hell
*The Burning Hell
(Toronto) This Friday night another installment of the Steam Whistle Unsigned charity concert series for the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation is happening. If you can manage the trek downtown, the lineup includes The Framework (new-wave rock), Lioness (soul-punk quartet) and The Burning Hell (electric-ukulele orchestra). We wrote about the Burning Hell earlier this year when Mathias Kom released his latest, Happy Birthday on Weewerk. The Burning Hell features Mathias on his electric ukulele and up to 12 people on stage. Has potential.

Friday, September 19th
Steam Whistle Brewing
(255 Bremner Blvd, across from the Skydome and CN Tower)
Doors at 8:00, tickets $5

I other beer news, here is a pretty useful how-to video I found lurking on the brewery’s site. Hey, if they don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.

Concert Review: Goldfrapp, September 14th, Danforth Music Hall (Toronto)

Posted on by guestwriter in Concerts | 3 Comments

Written in conjunction with Christabel Jackson.

Toronto – With my New Year’s resolution of making 2008 my busiest year for concerts ever fresh in my mind, when I found a pair of tickets to Goldfrapp at the Danforth Music Hall offered to me at cost price, I quickly made an offer. One round trip to Royal York subway station and $90 in cash later and the rights to potentially see Alison Goldfrapp wear a horse’s tail on stage were mine.

I’ll tell you right now: The horse’s tail thing didn’t play out. Sorry. It’s history for real. It was still a good show though, and a polka-dotted muumuu made its appearance, so keep reading.

The Danforth Music Hall is a pretty ideal venue to watch a show like Goldfrapp. It’s large – slightly below the capacity of Massey Hall – but with far more comfortable permanent seats. Aside from the orchestra seating area, there’s a balcony for latecomers to use, as well as four box seats that are probably strictly for show. Seating was unassigned and first-come, first-serve, so my concert-going partner Christabel and I quickly established ourselves three quarters of the way back on the right side of the orchestra section. A well-stocked bar in the lobby ensured that drinks of every type were available, but bringing anything other than water bottles into the seating areas was restricted. I wasn’t in the mood for anything other than Dasani-branded Brampton tap water anyways. Shortly thereafter we were underway.

Read more