Sound Academy

Concert Review: Sleater-Kinney, March 2, Sound Academy

Posted on by Wini Lo in Concerts | Leave a comment

Photo by Melody Lau

Two well-established facts: Sleater-Kinney is a kick-ass band and the Sound Academy is a terrible venue. Now that those two details are out of the way, I have to make this hefty statement: Sleater-Kinney is such a kick-ass live band that I actually forgot that the Sound Academy is a terrible venue during their show. Yes, really.

The venue choice wasn’t going to stop me from seeing this band. Hell no. I wanted to see them that much. They’re a band I’ve loved since my early 20s, were formative in my education of feminist pop culture and nurtured the beginnings of my affection for the Pacific Northwest. And, I must also emphasize this one detail: they’re a band that broke up/went on hiatus in 2006 (you can never really know when “hiatuses” really mean break-ups!) before I had a chance to even see them. I still recall that sinking heartbreak when I found out, thinking I’d never get to see them play live.

Late last year, when Sub Pop announced they would be releasing S-K’s entire discography on vinyl and packaged together in a special boxset, I was pretty stoked. But the bigger and even better announcement was to come. Not only was S-K back together and releasing a brand new album, THE BAND WOULD BE TOURING. Dreams do come true!

The entire show was a face-melting dream come true. To be in the presence of Corin Tucker’s blistering vocals, Carrie Brownstein’s guitar agility and Janet Weiss’ impossibly effortless and impeccable drumming. Pure. Magic. The set list was a balance of songs from their new album, No Cities To Love and choice picks from their five previous albums (no songs from their first two records; they have eight in total in their discography). I thought I was going to burst during “Youth Decay” (one of my absolute favourite S-K songs). “Sympathy” followed by “Entertain” followed by “Jumper” (the last three songs in the set before the encore) were almost too much to handle (in a good way).

When the trio, plus touring band member Katie Harkin and opener Lizzo with her crew emerged for the encore set, Tucker voiced the band’s support for Planned Parenthood and continuing support of women’s reproductive rights. How can I love this band even more? I’m not sure if words can even express it. Long live Sleater-Kinney; forever shall they reign my heart.

See the full set list here.

Concert Review: Travis, September 25, Sound Academy

Posted on by Wini Lo in Concerts | Leave a comment

travis

It takes a lot for me to consider a show at the Sound Academy. In my 15+ years of attending concerts in Toronto, I can count how many times I’ve been to the Sound Academy on one hand. It’s just so damn far, in the middle of nowhere, and the venue itself isn’t even good (poor sound!). But I digress. What I’m saying is that I have to really like a band to go there.

Funnily enough, the first time I went to the Sound Academy was the last time Travis played in Toronto, in 2009. (Lead singer Fran Healy did stop by the Mod Club in 2010 for a solo tour.) This band has a special place in my heart, as one of the first bands I really loved. I collected all their CD singles (back when bands released two singles in the UK for several songs per album, which would include two b-sides per single), waited outside MuchMusic so that I could sit in the studio audience during live interviews and one time, when I was naive and fearless at 18, took a Greyhound bus alone from Guelph to Toronto for their Massey Hall show. After the show, I took a ride with two total strangers back to Guelph and we drove around aimlessly, completely lost, about two hours. Oh, and I also have the most random keepsake: Fran Healy’s discarded shoe insole that he removed from his shoe during a show and tossed off the stage during the encore. Two years later, I met the band and proudly presented the insole to Fran, which he signed for me and proclaimed, “You’ve got my sole!” [that’s a play on the word “soul,” in case you missed it.]

As I got older, I began to expand my horizons to other bands, and I became less of a superfan. But The Man Who will probably always be one of my favourite albums.

The four members of Travis were met with loud cheers when they emerged onstage at the Sound Academy on Wednesday. Healy apologetically acknowledged that it had been a long time since they’d played Toronto (four years). But it’s understandable, since their latest album, Where You Stand, is actually their first in five years. The set began with new song “Mother” – the refrain “why did we wait so long?” seemed appropriate.

Older songs were expectedly well-received by the audience – “Sing,” “Driftwood,” “Writing to Reach You” and “Slide Show” were highlights (among others!). Aside from the newer songs, the set list allowed for maximum audience singalongs. “You all sing beautifully,” declared Healy at one point.

The best moment of the show was during the encore, when the band huddled around Healy’s main mic to sing “Flowers in the Window,” with just Healy on acoustic guitar and drummer Neil Primrose with a tambourine. The show closed with, arguably their most popular and well-known tune, “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”

While I may not be a superfan anymore, Travis is still a band that I really love. I mean, I like them enough that I braved the Sound Academy (again!) to see them. And you know what? I probably would again.

Concert Review: Bachelorette, Magnetic Fields, March 30, Sound Academy

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

“I’m not sure if I told you, I’m Bachelorette. I’m not The Magnetic Fields … and this is not the song I just played.” These words were spoken by New Zealander Annabel Alpers, AKA Bachelorette (and not The Magnetic Fields) early on in her set. It was quirky and charming, as was much of the rest of her stage banter. I don’t know if this is a cultural stereotype or not, but quirky and charming is kind of what I imagine everyone from New Zealand to be like. Yeah, I probably watch too much Flight of The Conchords.  Regardless, she impressed with her electronic tunes, and seemed to be enjoying “the Toronto vibe.”  With any solo performer, a good onstage presence is important.  Alpers had an engaging (and yes, quirky) personality that really helps to draw in a crowd.  She introduced one song as being from 2005, adding, “I’ve been around awhile.”  Kind of surprised I’ve never heard of her before now.

Where Bachelorette was quirky and charming, Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt was sarcastic and deadpan.  And absolutely hilarious.  When some fan shouted out a request for “Busby Berkeley Dreams,” Merritt replied that they do not do requests and that “The last time we took a request, it didn’t go very well.”  OK, it doesn’t sound all that funny on paper, but in person, I got a good laugh out of it.  There was also this gem: “This is called ‘The Book Of Love.’  It’s very popular.  Some people have it sung at their weddings. I will have it sung at my funeral.”  And who can forget: “This song is called ‘Come Back From San Francisco.’ It’s about someone who went to San Francisco…” 

Merritt being a prolific songwriter, he’s got a wealth of tunes to choose from in any given set.  This of course means someone’s favourite might get left of the list (although the aforementioned “Busby Berkeley Dreams” did eventually get played as the closer.  I guess Merritt just doesn’t like being told when to play songs … then again, who really would?) but it also means they’ve got a lot of great songs to choose from, so I doubt anyone really walked away unsatisfied afterwards.

Concert Review: Erasure, September 11, Sound Academy

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | 5 Comments

IKVDK

Photo and setlist from IKVDK

“I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Toronto that makes me incredibly horny” – Andy Bell

For the past 27 years, the brilliant Vince Clark and Andy Bell have been a newspaper classified success story. Answering Vince Clarke’s call for a singer, Mr. Bell won the job, making them synth pop and LGBT heros, and Clarke’s longest running, most successful act.

I feel I should break this review down categorically, because there was a LOT going on in terms of interaction, sights, and sounds.

THEATRICS:
In a kind of mildly Gothic, genre-crossing stage explosion, the set consisted of a twisted round symbol, with Vince Clarke’s podium a gargoyle with glowing red eyes and an elevated stage section for the back-up singers. The result was part burlesque, part weird, and all fabulous. Clark donned a shiny red fedora and sequined red suit, the back-up singers wire feather headdresses and sequined red bustiers, and Andy Bell was clad in a fuschia sequined blazer and gladiator-esque helmet.

The intro was a slower number, making for Bell’s disrobing and revelation of a tight vest corset all the more dramatic. The crowd became looser and more inflamed with Always. Perhaps it was the revelation of his full bicep gun-show that did us in–but more likely it was the fact that his forceful voice sounds better than ever now.

One of the funniest parts of the show was when Vince had to physically cut Andy’s corset vest off while Andy exclaimed “He’s so sweet”. There was a short costume change into a simpler (and more comfortable) t-shirt and sunglasses, but not before a period of shirtlessness.

BANTER:
If there’s one thing that is evident about Andy, it’s that he isn’t at all shy, and thank GOD. For a guy who is 47, he’s also still a fantastic live frontman. Although we often lost track of his back-and-forth with those standing in the front row, the one thing that we always took back was that he thrives off the audience. There was a curious tendency of his to talk like a castrated Kermit the Frog while thanking the audience in-between songs, but I wonder if this was a source of voice preservation…

DANCING:
Unsurprisingly, the dance moves were flaylingly enthusiastic from all fronts. First, from all of the die-hard Erasure fans that had made the trek to the ill-located Sound Academy. Second, from the prancing muscular full body moves of Andy Bell.

PLEASE DON’T STOP THE CHORUS:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more belt-worthy chorus than from a classic Erasure song. From my favorite (Chorus) to Chains of Love to Love to Hate You and A Little Respect, there is nothing quite like singing out loud to Andy’s powerhouse chords. I also maintain that no one writes a more touching love song like an 80’s synthpop band.

These are two guys who can make you want to hear the same four lines endlessly for an entire song:

Chorus from CHORUS:
And they covered up the sun
Until the birds had flown away
And the fishes in the sea
Had gone to sleep

Chorus from ALWAYS:
Always
I wanna be with you
And make believe with you
And live in harmony harmony oh love

Chorus from SOMETIMES:
Ooh, sometimes
The truth is harder than the pain inside, yeah
Ooh, sometimes
It’s the broken heart that decides

I’ve bolded my favorite moments from the show below–and although none of the newer songs are really included in there, it’s important for people to know that they are totally listen-worthy with beats that can compete with any new act.

SETLIST: (from Josh)

  1. Sono Luminus (Erasure – 1995)
  2. Always (I Say I Say I Say – 1994)
  3. When I Start To (Break It All Down) (Tomorrow’s World – 2011)
  4. Blue Savannah (Wild – 1989)
  5. Fill Us With Fire (Tomorrow’s World – 2011)
  6. Drama (Wild – 1989)
  7. You’ve Got To Save Me Right (Tomorrow’s World – 2011)
  8. Ship Of Fools (The Innocents – 1988)
  9. Chorus (Chorus – 1991)
  10. Breathe (Nightbird – 2005)
  11. Victim Of Love (The Circus – 1986)
  12. Alien (Loveboat – 2000)
  13. Push Me Shove Me (Wonderland – 1985)
  14. Love To Hate You (Chorus – 1991)
  15. I Lose Myself (Tomorrow’s World – 2011)
  16. A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot (Tomorrow’s World – 2011)
  17. Breath Of Life (Chorus – 1991)
  18. Chains Of Love (The Innocents-1988)
  19. Sometimes (The Circus-1986)
  20. A Little Respect (The Innocents-1988)

ENCORE:

  1. Oh L’Amour (Wonderland-1985)
  2. Stop! (Crackers International-1988)

4.5 out of 5