Concert Review: Feist – May 13 – Hummingbird

Posted on by Mark in Concerts | 7 Comments

Feist rocks it

Toronto – So let me tell you about the Hummingbird Centre. It’s no longer called the Hummingbird Centre. It’s now called the “Sony Centre“. But I prefer calling it the Hummingbird; and it’s a great place to see a medium to large band while avoiding the uber-mega crowds of Ricoh and beyond. The best and worst part of seeing a rock show at the Hummingbird is the acoustics.

You see, under the right conditions, you can practically hear a pin drop. The effect can be positively spine-tingly when the crowd is silent and the performer is in control of the room. Unfortunately, the acoustics are so good that I find myself hyper-aware of the crowd around me. I saw Radiohead at the Hummingbird a few years ago when this douchebag on the other side of the floor said something during quiet time and managed to ruin the moment. Anyway, the point here is when you’re at the Hummingbird, everyone can hear you.

Now, then. My friend rightfully points out that these concert halls are designed with acoustics in mind, and behave in this fashion. This is a valid point. I suppose when I go to see the symphony at Roy Thompson, the crowd just doesn’t yell “I LOVE YOU!” and “yyyeaaAAAHHHH! WhooOOooo!” to Peter Oudjoudjou. This probably has to do with the fact that the Classical-listening audience tends to be older, less drunk, and less stoned then the hip urbanistas that patrol Feist and Radiohead concerts.

Anyway, instead of ranting about the douchebags that like to ruin shows, I want to help solve the problem. As such, I’ve prepared this handy-dandy flowchart that all of you space cadets can print out, laminate, and whip out when you’re wondering when it’s an appropriate time to clap, and when it’s an appropriate time to shut the fuck up. I love playing around with flowcharts like this at work because it totally makes me look like I’m working hard. I highly recommend learning how to vent via the magical power of flowcharts.

How to Not be a Concert Douchebag

Figure 1 – How Not to be a Concert Douchebag

Now, on to the show. The opening band was Great Lake Swimmers. This band is not just chill, they’re super-duper chill. Their self-titled debut album is interesting because there are crickets in the background throughout. This adds a homey consistency to their particular brand of indie campfire folk. The one downside about this show was technical in that they seemed to be running into some feedback issues occasionally, which took away from their super crisp sound. I would like to listen to this band unplugged next to a real great lake that I just swam around in, while also listening to real crickets and warming up next to a cheery fire and making smores while surrounding by my friends both old and new.

Anyway. Next up was Feist. Leslie Feist. Feist is her real name by the way. What can I say about Feist? What a voice. She owns her voice in a way that few singers own their voice. Feist just absolutely rocks, both literally, with songs like Sea Lion Woman, and figuratively, with her exuberant prancing and mischievously funny stage banter. The show was coupled with some extremely tasteful and creative effects. These visual artists used all sorts of sweet, low and high-tech techniques to artfully lend to the atmosphere of Feist’s music. They used disco balls, fake snowflakes, and a projector with home-made arts-and-crafts to make their own moving pictures that blended perfectly with the music.

The quiet moments, for their part, sounded really fantastic. It was too bad that Feist’s request for the crowd to not yell during these quiet moments fell on deaf ears. See figure 1. Some of you might remember her song “1, 2, 3, 4″ from Apple commercial fame. Personally, I’m partial to I Feel It All, which was the signature song at this year’s film fest. I’ve been conditioned to watch a movie after hearing that song, and was a little disappointed when there was no movie. Fortunately Feist followed it up with another one of those Feist songs.

Lake Swimmers: 3.7 out of 5 Great Lakes
Feist: 4.5 out of 5 Snowflakes (which Feist continually tossed at the crowd)

Concert Review: Black Kids, May 9th, Phoenix

Posted on by Wade in Concerts, Everything | 4 Comments

(Toronto) Really, this show was a maybe for me, but when Rickys’ friend had an extra ticket, it became a must see.

We got there in time to hear the opener, The Mobius Band. I felt bad when they took the stage and started playing because they essentially played in the dark. The low mood that was used to illuminate the slew of instruments on stage as people entered the Phoenix, also served as performance lights for the Mobius Band. Needless to say, seeing them live didn’t want me open up iTunes to listen to them again. Bring on the Black Kids.

Since they formed in Jacksonville, Florida two years ago, Black Kids have:

-Got press in NME after performing at the Athens Popfest
-Released an EP for free download
-Got a ‘Best New Music commendation and an 8.4 from Pitchfork
-Signed with Quest Management (who manages Bjork and Arcade Fire)
-Named one of the best new bands of 2008 from Rolling Stone
-Recorded their first full length, Partie Traumatic with Bernard Butler form Suede
-I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You debuted at #11 in the UK.

So yah, they are riding some momentum into this year for sure. I guess the most obvious thing that I was interested in seeing was if they were actually Black or not. Upon them taking the stage I found out that the Black Kids are two-fifths black. The five-member ensemble took the stage in the usual American Apparel hoodies and T’s and reminded me, visually at least, of The Go Team! As for their sound, they have some catchy, dance tunes that I am sure will be re-mixed and released in the coming months.

Their stand out single “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” was the highlight of the show for sure. If you are a band and you are selling a t-shirt with the title of one of your songs on it, it had better be a good tune. Songs that I hadn’t heard, such as I Wanna Be Your Limousine and Look At Me When I Rock Wichoo (it is really spelled that way too) were pleasant surprises that were not included on there downloadable EP earlier this year.

Apparently at their live show, their front man, Reggie Youngblood, starts every song with “Hey Toronto…” I’m not too sure how they are going to feel about this in Boston on May 12th. Maybe he thought we in attendance couldn’t remember where we were? I hate that shout out shit that bands do.

Ricky made a good comparison on the way home that they seem to be on the same track as Vampire Weekend. The lead singer has a unique sound, they are fun, and they are getting lots of press. They’ll be back in the coming months for a headlining show, guarantee.

Overall, a good show. When they come back, I want them to be louder with more energy.

After Black Kids, Cold Cut went on. If you saw them and want to leave a note about their contribution to the evening, please do.

Concert Review: The Verve, May 1st, Ricoh Coliseum

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – What a night to be an ex-pat, it was rainy and miserable, there was a proper football match going on and the Verve were playing a concert .. all you needed was a couple fights and more people with poor dental hygiene and it’d be a lil slice of London heaven. I of course, am not an ex-pat, so I swore at the weather and marveled at all the blokes that accumulated outside Ricoh Coliseum on Thursday night. Where do these people come from? I rarely come across someone with an English accent on a regular basis and yet anytime some English band comes for the concert, they come out in droves. It’s amazing.

So The Verve was in town on Thursday night, after a decade long absence from Toronto. I can’t really say anticipation was high, because my coworker had an extra ticket to the show and he couldn’t find anyone to take it. I guess maybe its because the tickets were SEVENTY dollars. Seriously, Radiohead charges 70 dollars, I don’t think you are as big as Radiohead so don’t charge as much as they do. I think if they charged around 45 dollars, there would have been a lot more people.

This was also my first time in Ricoh. It was an okay venue, it’s an arena, so theres no easy access to booze, but I had already accepted that before the show and dealt with it appropriately. I guess Ricoh and Molson Amphitheatre are the only mid-size venues out there – bigger then the Kool Haus, smaller then the ACC. It’s a shame that this show wasn’t at the Hummingbird or something. The sound system was okay, I think a lot of the sounds was muddled when the music was busy and that was a downer.

The Verve came on a bit after 9, late as usual (no band is ever punctual). And man, right away you can tell they are a successful band. Light shows, well dressed and just full of arrogance – all trademarks of a band that has arrived. Totally comfortable with the large stage and unfazed by the half empty stadium, Richard Ashcroft immediate broke into “A New Decade” off their second album. I have never seen the Verve live before, but Richard Ashcroft is a pretty good front man. He reminds me a lot of Ian Brown with all the posturing and moves he does. They both deliver their tunes like its a rap battle almost, which I found quite amusing. I think they both have the same barber too.

So for the next 100 minutes, they played all sorts of songs off all three of their albums. I don’t think the decade long absence has really hurt them live, they are quite strong live. The thing that will always be a huge plus for them is that Richard Ashcroft can really belt out tunes and when you have a quality lead like him, its hard to mess up. I would say my favorite moment was the 1-2 combo of “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Lucky Man” near the end of the show. Those two songs are awesome and seeing them back to back was great. They ended the show with ‘Come On’ before whipping the crowd into a frenzy in the encore with ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ which is just ridiculous live. My only complaint was the light show was a bit much with the strobe lights and I’m pretty sure someone at the show probably had a seizure.

All in all, the Verve were tremendous crowd pleasers and the hit songs they played were flawless and I am pretty sure everyone went home happy. and deaf.

A New Decade
This is Music
Space and Time
Life’s An Ocean
Weeping Willow
Sit and Wonder
The Rolling People
Velvet Morning
The Drugs Don’t Work
Lucky Man
Come On

Bitter Sweet Symphony
Modern Times



Ps. The picture is not from the show.

Concert Review: Miracle Fortress, Born Ruffians, Lees Palace, April 26

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 2 Comments

Toronto – Canadian bands packing Canadian crowds drinking Canadian beer. That was pretty much Saturday nite for the packed house at Lees Palace. I drank Wellington’s SPA, so I don’t know if that is Canadian or not. Someone look it up and post it in the comments please. PLEASE. Saturday night was a kind of a weird vibe, the TTC was on strike, the Raptors and the Blue Jays lost – hell even the Habs lost. All signs pointed to a disappointing night. Wrong.

Despite the fact that there was no public transit available – Lee’s Palace was packed. Not only that, it seemed packed from the get go – enough for me to think that this show was a double bill, rather then Miracle Fortress opening up for Born Ruffians. Some random band had started the show off, but I was watching hockey at the time, so I do not know who they were or how they played. I am sure they were more then alrite though and you should definitely check them out.

Back to Miracle Fortress, obviously getting great buzz from their CBC approved ‘Five Roses’ cd last year, the band quietly came out to an almost full crowd at around 11:00 pm. The threesome consists of Jordan Robson-Cramer on the drums, lead vocal Graham Van Pelt and female guitarist Jessie Stein, wearing something that was a cross of a summer dress and a kitchen apron. Regardless, girl with guitar = Panic Manual Approved. For the next fourty minutes or so, they went thru songs mostly from Five Roses – including some jams and extending outro’s. There was some awkward banter from Jessie Stein mainly and they concluded the set with the hit ‘Maybe Lately’. I thought the vocals were a bit too quiet and the drums were too loud, but man the drummer is pretty good. He would attach all sorts of random materials to his drumset and used that to make sounds. Probably has been doing that since he was a kid. It was a good set, only complaint being the muddled vocals at times.

By the time the roadies had finished up setting up for the Born Ruffians, Lees Palace was really packed. How are these people getting home? Surely they all don’t live within walking distance as I do – maybe they have cars. Rich assholes. As some might know, the Born Ruffians are a Toronto band. Which means lots of friends and family (one of the members said “hi” to their mom) in the crowd. However, by the end of the night – everyone was a friend. The band came on probably around midnight and right off the bat, you can tell this was going to be a good show. The crowd was hyped and from the first chord to the last, people was jumping up and down, hands in the air, dancing, singing to every single note coming out of Luke Lalonde’s mouth. Please note that I was standing in the middle area of the venue, so yea I have no idea how people were behind me. Probably boring.

How was the band themselves? Well, after attending the show, you have to say – the Born Ruffians music are perfect for small type venues. It’s got that college/pub rock sound to it that is way interactive with all the chanting choruses and the ‘whoooos’ and ‘aaaaaaaahhhs’. The band played songs from both albums, and I think ended the set with Hummingbird with a bunch of friends on stage. In the end I think everyone who went to the show as satisfied and for those who couldn’t make it – it looks like they are doing the Europe thing for the summer, and I am sure by the time they get back, it’ll probably be at a bigger venue which might ruin the nice cozy family environment that was Saturday nite’s at Lees