Concert Review: Phoenix, October 22, Ricoh Coliseum

Posted on by sarahw in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Remember when you were 17 and your favourite boy band was making a stop in Toronto at the ACC. You took the GO train into Toronto for the big night and probably went to Jack Astors for dinner before the big show. Then you found your way eagerly to your severely overpriced seats among the other 20,000 rabid fans. You sat there through the opening band because doors opened at 7PM and you didn’t want to miss anything. When the band finally appeared your ears were assaulted with shrill screams and you spend the next hour singing at the top of your lungs to a well-rehearsed pop band highlighted by an even more well-timed light show.

Now, reduce the venue size and replace rabid fans for indifferent kids, more interested in standing in beer lines than seeing the band play. This was Phoenix at Ricoh coliseum.

Phoenix has rocketed to stardom and managed to score a Grammy for their Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album largely due to their anthemic pop sound. I would describe them as a hybrid of Coldplay and U2. The French band has been touring for 18 months, limiting their ability to create new material, so their set list has remained pretty static. Shockingly, they opened with Lisztomania, their first single.

About halfway through the performance the lights dimmed and a large white curtain fell down in front of the band. Silhouetted, they played Love like a Sunset, one of their only instrumental songs. The curtain was finally drawn at the song’s climax, adding a dramatic element to the song’s long build-up.

In the latter half of the show all of a sudden half of the band disappeared from the stage. We thought this was the end of their show but after recovering from the menacing strobe lights, noticed people on the floor flocking to the soundboard where 3 members of the band were standing. Here they played acoustic versions of Big Sun, Love For Granted and a French folk song (because they’re in Canada, non?). The band was shrouded in darkness save for one spotlight highlighting their location. Despite this pleasant surprise, the crowd (outside of the floor) was barely paying attention at this point.

As always Phoenix closed with 1901 and the band kept playing while the lead singer hopped into the crowd and surfed among fans, brave man.

Lizstomania (Classixx Version)- Phoenix by Classixx (Official)

Concert Review: A.A. Bondy, the Walkmen, October 9, Phoenix

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | 2 Comments

Playing at the Phoenix Concert Theater is a definitive stepping stone towards marking an act’s “arrival” on the map in Toronto. The familiar map of an indie band’s rise is often through seeing someone headline at Lee’s and graduate to the Phoenix, or open at one and headline at the other is a path most Toronto-based concert-goers will be familiar with. On the whole, the Phoenix isn’t a terrible venue; it’s larger for one, and well, that’s about it. I’ll echo the sentiments of most everyone else I know by saying it’s nice to see good bands graduate to larger audiences.

So on Saturday night, it was nice to see that AA Bondy had generated enough buzz to attract a pretty packed house. I guess I was pretty much the last person to figure out who this guy is, having missed his first splash as the lead singer of Verbena. For those of you unfamiliar with the folk act, lead man Scott Bondy is kinda reminiscent of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. At least based on what I heard skimming before the show; their set was notably a helluva lot noisier and more energetic but maybe they saved the faster stuff for the last half of their set (this was an early concert…they went on at 8:20 and the Walkmen took the stage at 9:40).

A.A. Bondy – Oh The Vampyre by Trip Fontaine

As for the Walkmen, I’m happy to report that they have not gone forgotten. The Walkmen were one of those bands that you used to hear a lot about until the floodgates of 2008-2009 unleashed a non-stop tidal wave of Brooklyn. That’s too bad, because 2008’s You & Me was one of the best releases of the year, harbouring the same downbeat chill-ergy that make an enjoyable album. I haven’t checked out this fall’s Lisbon yet, but based on what I heard last night they’re on the same moonbeam.

Live, everything takes a backseat to their lead singer (Hamilton Leithauser)’s incredibly soulful 21st century Joe Cocker-like pipes, and their drummer, Matt Barrick. While I think the projective quality of Hamilton’s singing is easy to imagine based on their studio work, what is always less noticeable (at least to me), is how much high quality drumming can raise the bar of a live show. My never-ending complaints of too loud drums are well documented so I was happy to see that someone has finally gotten it right.  Check them out performing the Rat on Letterman.

I couldn’t find their Toronto setlist but it looks comparable enough to their Boston show

If anyone has compiled their setlist, please post it here.

The Walkmen – Stranded by statemagazine

Festival Review: Lollapalooza 2010, Grant Park, August 7 – Day 2

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 1 Comment

Empire of the Sun

Chicago – Festivals are a bit like running a marathon for me – a marathon that involves damaged hearing and drinking beer.  What I’m getting at here is that I like to catch as much music as possible.  So there I was, on the second day of the festival, bright and early at 11:15 am.  I caught a band called MyNameIsJohnMichael, who I knew nothing about, but who apparently have a song featured on Gossip Girl.  They’re from New Orleans and they have a pretty good sound.  The band started when John Michael Rouchell decided he was going to write a song a week for a year, so I guess they’ve got a few songs in the can already for their second album.  After playing a slower song near the end of their set, Rouchell thanked the crowd for not taking off as often might happen if a band is too mellow during a festival set.  “Actually, they have nowhere else to go” said one of his bandmates in reference to their very early time slot. 

Next up were The Morning Benders, who impressed me with their early afternoon slot.  As I watched them, I thought, “Ricky was right, these guys do look really young.”  They closed out their set with “Excuses,” urging the crowd to sing along even though it was pretty early.  Of course, festival crowds are a lot more susceptible to singalongs than regular crowds so they complied. 

The Morning Benders

Next was a band who was on my list of must sees, having missed them twice during NXNE – The Soft Pack.  The San Diego band delivered a set of tight, poppy, garage rocky tunes that livened up the early afternoon and was probably the highlight of the day for me.  Singer Matt Lamkin has a voice that’s at times reminiscent of both Julian Casablancas and hot Snakes/Obits singer Rick Froberg.  As Lamkin introduced their last song, a new one,  drummer Brian Hill interrupted – “A new song, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  “It’s side A of Rubber Soul – in two minutes” replied Lamkin.  “It’s all blastbeats,” said Hill.  “I used to play in Carcass … just kidding, it was Deicide.”  I’d like to see these guys again in a smaller club setting.

The Soft Pack

It was during the first half of Grizzly Bear’s set that I learned an important lesson – Lollapalooza is not my living room.  While Grizzly Bear sounded good, their performance seemed a little bit too laid back for my tastes, especially after checking out The xx’s similarly laid back (and ridiculously packed) set.  While Grizzly Bear may sound just fine at home, they left me a bit cold – I just wasn’t in the mood for it, and besides, I knew there was zero chance that Michael McDonald would join them for “While You Wait For The Others.”  So instead, I checked out AFI, a band I have not listened to much over the years and whose post-hardcore screamo-ish alt rock is certainly not something I would listen to these days (though I will admit I kind of liked their 2003 album Sing The Sorrow).  This counterintuitive move paid off as they were just the jolt I needed to wake me up from Grizzly Bear hibernation.


After a little bit of Metric and a little bit of Spoon (I only saw one song, but it was “Got Nuffin’,” which is one of my faves from their new album), I figured I had to check out Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a band that’s been getting a lot of positive buz these days.  A lot of other people had the same idea too, as it was so packed  at the smaller Sony Bloggie stage that people were climbing into trees just to get a better view of the band.  Even though I was way in the back, I saw enough to know that the buzz is well deserved.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

As the time approached for Green Day’s headlining set, it was a choice between a guy in a bunny costume dancing to YMCA and The Ramones warming up the stage for them or Slightly Stoopid on the adidas MEGA stage.  Truth be told, I had to watch the guy in the bunny costume for a bit, but i checked out Slightly Stoopid as well, and well … they weren’t as stupid as I thought they’d be.  In fact, their reggae rock sound was kind of fun in a way.  They ended their set with a Nirvana cover, which brings me to a recurring theme for the weekend – cover songs.  These ranged from quite good (The Big Pink doing Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine”) to acceptable (the aforementioned Nirvana cover) to perplexing (Blues Traveler doing Sublime’s “What I Got” – not that I minded hearing it, but it seemd kind of like “Hey, we had a couple hits in the mid ’90s and here’s another song that was a hit back then.”) to kind of annoying (Green Day peppering their set wih little snippets of classic rock songs … still, it was kind of cool to hear the crowd sing along with “Sweet Child O’ Mine”)

Green Day definitely knows how to work a big crowd – they’ve got the big rock moves down.  I never really gave their last couple albums that much of a listen and really only wanted to hear them play their early ’90s stuff (and after I’d heard enough hits I did go over to check out the end of Phoenix’s set in time to hear a few songs including “1901,” which made me happy), but I’ve got to admit that those newer songs work really well in a big venue – there’s a reason American Idiot got turned into a piece of musical theatre.  They even followed Lady Gaga’s lead and had a fireworks display as part of their show.  In terms of theatricality though, perhaps the most visually interesting band of the weekend was Empire of the Sun, who played opposite Green Day and Phoenix.  With crazy images projected onstage, dancers and elaborate costumes, they certainly put on a great show.  Speaking of musical theatre, why weren’t the cast of Glee invited to play Lolla this year?  I’m sure that shit would have gone over huge.

Concert Review: Sia, April 28, Phoenix Concert Theatre

Posted on by Brian in Concerts | 2 Comments

Toronto – There is a pretty serious side to Sia Furler. Her first love died in a car accident. She speaks openly in interviews and on her popular Twitter account about all the therapy she’s been through. She’s become an icon in the LGBT community after she came out about dating girls and being bisexual. Her best known tune, “Breathe Me,” is a real heartbreaker, and her first two albums, Healing is Difficult (2000) and Colour the Small One (2004) are deeply introspective.

None of this is really evident in her live show, as Sia is easily the cutest, most adorable stage presence I’ve ever seen. The Australian singer popped up onstage at the Phoenix on April 28 with what she called a “light up penis” on her head and proceeded to bounce through an hour and a half set heavy with tunes from her more recent and upbeat albums Some People Have Real Problems from 2008 and We Are Born, set to be released next month.

Read more