Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gavin Rossdale
Danforth Music Hall

OK the only reason I'm at the Gavin Rossdale show is to treat my 25 year old daughter and her cousin. We had a blast at the NKOTB show last fall so it's worth another kick at their nostalgia can. First time we saw Gavin was back in the mid-90's and we were lucky to get a seat against the back wall of Maple Leaf Gardens. Not so much demand this time around. The Danforth Music Hall is one of the two best venues in Toronto. Go there if you get a chance.

Opening tonight is Suzie McNeil, quarter finalist in that INXS replacement reality show. That alone was enough to keep me away but my daughter insisted she could rock and, at the very least, was eye-candy. Right on both counts. Her 35 minute opening set was a lively display of a young woman who can kick it. Great pacing and a stage-presence beyond her years. It's always a bonus when the opener doesn't have you rushing for the beer queue.

Gavin's still bringing it too. A much smaller stage but no less commitment to the show than when he was riding the wave of popularity in the late-90's. The new songs, from Wanderlust, have as much punch as his early material, a slightly more worldly, less angry, version of his young self.

He does a great job of balancing the new with the old, not making the audience wait too long for their nostalgia fix as he rolls out a thunderous Machinehead in the third slot. Even when he slows it down, for an acoustic portion, his cover of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide demands attention, perhaps the vocal highlight of the evening.

A bit of a treat in the encore with a solo-electric version of Glycerine.

Here's the full set list and some samples.

Disc 1

T01 Can't Stop the World
T02 Frontline
T03 Machinehead
T04 Boom Box
T05 Everything Zen
T06 Trouble I'm In
T07 Forever May You Run
T08 Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
T09 Love Remains the Same
T10 Fugitive
T11 Adrenaline
T12 The People That We Love
T13 audience/talk

Disc 2
T01 Bullet-Proof Skin
T02 This Is Happiness
T03 Glycerine
T04 Come Down

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Handsome Family
El Mocambo

The Handsome Family come recommended by a Stateside friend. Now, truth be told, I got only about a 50% success rate with bands that have been recommended to me over the years. I don't pay much heed to 'fan appreciation' though I type ceaselessly in my quest to convert others. Still, there's too much to discover on your own so once in awhile it pays to take direction.

On the surface it looks like a no-brainer. Accolades from the likes of Greil Marcus. A band that mines the darkness of American roots music and blends it with an indie-ethos; which apparently makes them 'alt-country' in the places where pigeon-holes are required. Two people in the band. And a rock-bottom, fan-friendly ticket price for a show in an intimate history steeped bar, The ElMo, where Maggie Trudeau spent a lost weekend with Mick Jagger and broke our Prime Ministers heart.

Opening tonight is Marissa Nadler who brings her banjo and a handful of new songs to the stage. She lists her influences as artists as varied as Elizabeth Cotton to Joy Division and The Beatles, so there's no telling what it's going to sound like. When you get there, though, it sounds like Kate Bush with no passion...but that's just me, I'm not a big fan of the female voice in the high range, it took me over 40 years to take a shine to Joan Baez.

The Sparks family, er, Handsome Family, have some musical support on drums and guitar in the guise of Jason Todd and Steven Duraki(?). Kevin Hearns, of Barenaked Ladies and Lou Reed fame, sits in for three songs on the accordion. If only he'd plugged the damn thing in properly as his brief stint results in three brutal static blasts from the PA system.

The alt-country tag is not quite appropriate. While they are sonically like Crash Test Dummies, their lyrics, and subject matter, elevate this music beyond the narrow constrictions of 'country'.

Here's the set list and some samples:

T01 Arlene
T02 So Much Wine
T03 My Sister's Tiny Hands
T04 The Loneliness of Magnets
T05 The Giant of Illinois
T06 Darling, My Darling
T07 Through the Trees (*PA static @ 27 sec)
T08 Linger, Let Me Linger(*PA static, false start)
T09 Linger, Let Me Linger
T10 After We Shot the Grizzly
T11 band intro
T12 Little Sparrows
T13 All the Time In Airports
T14 The Forgotten Lake
T15 The Bottomless Hole
T16 talk
T17 My Friend
T18 crowd/encore
T19 A Thousand Diamond Rings
T20 talk
T21 Wild Wood
T22 Don't Be Scared

Sunday, April 19, 2009

English Beat
featuring David Wakeling
Lee's Palace

First time I saw the Beat was back in 1981. Got pretty well the same set list the other night. Wakeling's 30th Anniversay Tour brings everything but Ranking Roger. His spot as toastmaster is admirably filled by Antonee First Class , a protegé of sorts, he's suitably energetic and humbled. All he wants to do is make you dance...and he breaks the fuckin' silence once in awhile when the Toronto crowd lapses into a trance.

There was no lack of hits as they just kept coming. Unfortunately I had an equipment malfunction and was only able to capture the first hour and change of a two-hour set. Save It For Later had a great Pearl Jam piece thrown in, sorry I missed that one. Antonee's representation of Ranking Full Stop was terrific. The sing-a-long Mirror in the Bathroom was what you'd expect for a sing-a-long.

T01 Intro
T02 Whine and Grine/
T03 Stand Down Margaret
T04 Twist and Crawl
T05 Hands Off, She's Mine
T06 Can't Get Used To Losing You
T07 Best Friend
T08 Doors of My Heart
T09 Tears of A Clown
T10 crowd chant with Antonee First Class
T11 I'll Take You There
T12 I Confess
T13 talk-Break the Silence/National Front
T14 Two Swords
T15 Rough Rider (incomplete)

Save It For Later
Ranking Full Stop
Mirror in the Bathroom


End of the Party