Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 5 Shows of 2010

Another great concert year. This list doesn't even include The Specials, Billy Bragg or Gord was that good.

#5 CR Avery (some bookstore in ON)

A terrific, unexpected surprise as CR finds the zone for a half-dozen songs amongst row after row of books.

#4 Wanda Jackson (Cosmic Charlie's, Lexington, KY)
The First Lady of Rock N Roll, the Queen of Rockabilly, struggles a little with a tired voice but delivers the goods. Carrying the torch.

#3 Levon Helm's Ramble w/ Steve Earle (Woodstock, NY)
Not too much Levon but that was more than compensated for by Larry Campbell's emergence. Steve Earle was a bonus that made this night memorable. (no audio)

#2 Patti Smith (Tipitina's, New Orleans LA)
The Godmother of Punk opens with Be My Baby. 'nuff said. Special guests too.

#1 Evelyn/Evelyn w/ Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley (The Great Hall, Toronto)

Always glad when I discover something new. Can't get this show out of my cd player.

and of course, Horrible Mention:

Simon and Garfunkel (New Orleans Jazzfest)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tim Finn
formerly of Split Enz and Crowded House
The Courthouse Toronto ON

I first saw Tim Finn in the 'new wave' incarnation of Split Enz when they toured North America in the early 80's. The first couple times were here in Toronto, they had Blue Peter opening for them at the Concert Hall (the old Masonic Temple). They announced a special Horseshoe set for the following evening, in celebration of someone's b'day, and I was fortunate enough to be free for that impromptu gig.
The band never really broke, much as 'new wave' never did, until alternative became mainstream and all the songs of our youth started showing up as adverts. The good news part of that is... what's old is new again!

Their best effort by far, was 1980's True Colours, with the great pop tunes, Shark Attack, I See Red and I Got You.

Saw them one more time, in New Jersey in 1981 where they opened for Tom Petty. I left after the opening set, happy to have travelled 500 miles for a 32 minute concert.

Finn went on to be a member of the less frenetic, but more boring, Crowded House.

Last night Tim Finn played a lovely local venue, The Courthouse, and he brought a bit of the old, a bit of the middle and a fair helping of the new, to the plate.

But before that, we had an interesting opening set. Tim Finn had contacted Eileen Rose because she posted herself as a 'friend' on his mySpace page. He checked out a few of her songs, liked what he heard, rang her up and, without the benefit of middlemen, signed her on for a handful of shows.

She was onstage doing her soundcheck when they let us in the venue and she spent some time talking with the audience, setting a nice mood in the very luxurious but cozy venue. There are leather couches all around the side walls, facing in all directions, and not too big a main floor. There are 4 working fireplaces which works to make the ambience more like a large living room than a small concert setting. Most people who weren't on the couches actually SAT on the floor. Not me,I stood up, about 15 feet back in the center. There was trouble with the monitors during a lovely rendition of what might have been called Why Am I Awake While You're Sleeping, it was a sign of difficulties to come.

Just her and her nephew onstage. One acoustic guitar (no extra charge for the feedback issues) and one electric, though the nephew does make his way over to the electric piano for a couple tunes. Her set opens with a bouncy song called, I
believe, Love Don't Forget About Me. She follows with Would You Marry Me?, and it almost like we have theme developing.
Sound problems intervene to spoil the mood. It's mostly onstage where they are having trouble, the mix coming out of the PA seems fine. She performs a song from her soon to be released 2nd album, I'm the Only One, before revisiting her debut release for Nothing But Blue. All the songs sound interesting and she's trying her best to stay focussed while she wrestles with a muddy mix. Very unpretentious stage prescence though as she jokes freely about her trial-by-fire.

Things settle nicely for Tom Waits Crooning and then she tries to close her set with the wonderful Shining. (Do visit her mySpace page to listen to this song, a suitable introduction.) She takes three stabs at playing the song with her lead guitar getting more and more ornery. The third time she just sang, leaving her nephew to provide sparse instrumentation...but even that wasn't to her liking.

At this point she makes a move that saves what could have been an horrific outing. Yanking out the guitar plugs she says she's going to do this acoustic. Both unplug and step onto the floor of the venue to do the song right through, with no amplification, from about 5 feet away. Her persistance and good manner won the crowd over.

Eileen Rose
The Courthouse
Toronto ON
(opening for Tim Finn)
Track 01 Love Don't Forget About Me
Track 02 Would You Marry Me? (?)
Track 03 talk-sound complaints
Track 04 I'm The Only One
Track 05 Nothing But Blue
Track 06 Tom Waits Crooning
Track 07 Shining (3 false starts version due to sound issues)
Track 08 Shining (unplugged, acoustic version from 5 ft away on the floor)


Track 09 Drink Order/Sound Check/Pre-show Chat with Audience
song: Why Am I Awake While You're Sleeping (?)

The crowd at this venue is much older than I'm used to seeing. Which is why they are mostly sitting, I guess. When the heros of your youth take the stage as silver-haired memories of themselves, you know you're getting old as well. On the other hand, just seeing them out here, reaping the benefits of their mispent youth, is life affirming.

Tim addresses this immediately by opening with the oldest song of the night, 1977's My Mistake, from the Splitz Enz catalogue, followed by Couldn't Be Done, from 2006's solo effort, Imaginary Kingdom. Given there's 30 years between the tunes, they share an infectious pop-sensibility that never ages.

He dips into Split Enz's True Colours for the alternative hit, Poor Boy and moves back up to the present for the celestial Astounding Moon. Bit of a see-saw ... or perhaps, saw-see, given the sequence, thing going on here.

Another dip into the Crowded House catalogue for How Will You Go? before we get what I believe is an unrecorded song, a parable called, The Saw and the Tree. Now there's a contentious relationship.

Persuasion, penned in concert with Richard Thompson, gets a rise out of the audience but it's Dirty Creatures that steps it up a notch. Fun to here these songs done with bare accompanionment, stripped and minimalist. He continues, back and forth
through his catalogue, until he closes with a couple more from True Colours, I See Red and Shark Attack...worth the price of admission.

Tim Finn
The Courthouse
Toronto ON

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 Mistake
Track 03 Couldn't Be Done
Track 04 Poor Boy
Track 05 talk
Track 06 Astounding Moon
Track 07 How Will You Go?
Track 08 Saw and the Tree
Track 09 Persuasion
Track 10 Dirty Creatures
Track 11 Salt to the Sea
Track 12 Not Even Close
Track 13 talk
Track 14 Winter Light
Track 15 So Precious
Track 16 It's Only Natural
Track17 Parihaka
Track 18 I See Red
Track 19 Mockery
Track 20 Shark Attack

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joe Jackson
Danforth Music Hall
Toronto ON

Second in a series of blogs that got left behind.

Nice show from new wave-popster Joe Jackson at the Musical Hall in April.
The songs from the new album (Rain) harken back to the early '80's, which is fortunate, because Joe chose to fill the rest of the evening with a hearty dose of tunes from the start of his career. Couldn't have asked for much more.
Oh ya, covers...a nice one from Bowie and a fun piece from Ellington.
I was really impressed with the drummers work and Jackson is no slouch on the piano either!
Much different attitude from the dude too. Last time I saw him...somewhere back in the early '80's, he played what was to date the second shortest headlining set I'd ever witnessed...somewhere just under 40 minutes. He brings a much more substantial show to the stage now.

Here's the full set list with a few mp3 samples if you're interested.

Joe Jackson
Danforth Music Hall
Toronto ON

The Band:

Joe Jackson vocals, piano and shaky thing
Graham Maby bass, backing vocals
Dave Houghton drums, backing vocals

Disc 1

t01 Home Town (from Big World, 1986)
t02 Steppin' Out (from Night and Day, 1982)
t03 Another World (from Night and Day, 1982)
t04 Too Tough (from Rain, 2008)
t05 Citizen Sane (from Rain, 2008)
t06 talk - 'balmy Toronto'
t07 Dirty Martini (from Volume 4, 2003)
t08 Wasted Time (from Rain, 2008)
t09 Cancer (from Night and Day, 1982)
t10 On Your Radio (from I'm The Man, 1979)

t11 Solo (So Low) (from Rain, 2008)
t12 The Uptown Train (from Rain, 2008)
t13 Chinatown (from Night and Day, 1982)

Disc 2
t01 Scary Monsters (Super Creeps) (David Bowie)

t02 It's Different For Girls (from I'm The Man, 1979)
t03 Good Bad Boy (from Rain, 2008)
t04 You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want) (from Body and Soul, 1984)
t05 One More Time (from Look Sharp!, 1979)
t06 encore break/talk
t07 Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington)
t08 Is She Really Going Out With Him? (from Look Sharp!, 1979)
t09 band intro/talk
t10 A Slow Song (from Night and Day, 1982)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Corin Raymond
and the Sundowners
Live Concert Shoot
The Cameron House
Toronto ON

Tryin' to get some moving pictures in the tight confines of the Cameron House. Not an easy task. Big thanks to the staff and audience for being tolerant and accommodating.

Corin Raymond has just returned from a month long tour of the west coast and prairies with Sean Cotton in the guise of The Undesirables.
Tonight's version of Corin is in collaboration with the Sundowners. Alt-country with an urban edge.

We have three cameras running in the hopes of getting a few gems to include in an upcoming DVD that will feature Corin Raymond and the Sundowners creating an album of covers penned by contemporary North American songwriters.

Toronto's Troubadour, Sweatmaster Flash, Corin leaves it all on the stage then uses his shirt to wipe up the residue.
He's got a crack band behind him. David Baxter brings a level of talent on the slide guitar and mandolin that exceeds the requirements for a walk up set. JUNO award winner, he's a player and a shaker, producing records when he's not making them. You can hear his licks weekly on Degrassi:The Next Generation. Treasa Levasseuradorns the stages of most Parkdale clubs, playing when the opportunity presents itself, and has talent that threatens to lead her to the Big Time. In 2008 she won CBC's "Ultimate Sideman Showdown" and she's graced the stage of the venerable Massey Hall in the Women's Blues Revue. Brian Kobayakowa on stand up bass is a regular in The Creaking String Quartet and a handful of other bands that work scene on Queen.

Corin has another weapon with him onstage...a great catalogue of songs from writers known and unknown. Much as he loves to perform you can tell from his stage patter that he is in a constant state of wonder when he sees and hears the depth of songwriting talent you can come across if you keep your ears and mind open.

Here are some song samples. They are all great but don't miss Hard on Things.

Corin Raymond and the Sundowners
The Cameron House

Corin Raymond vocals, sweat
David Baxter guitar, mandolin
Treasa Levasseur accordion, piano
Brian stand up bass

Set 1

Winter Is the Warmest Time of Year
talk- dedication to Paul Sannella
Anastasia (Max Metro)
100 Candles (The Swiftys)
talk - Alberta
Old Fort Mac
Hard on Things
Riding West on Dundas
River Town (Hays Carl/Guy Clarke)
I'm A Fucking Genius (Raghu Lokananthan)
Stealin' My Heart
Ethel's Lounge (Doug Norquay)
talk - Doug Norquay and radio play
Waitin' on the Ending of the Day (Doug Norquay)
3000 Miles
Band Intro
Sugar Candy Mountain (Raghu Lokananthan)

Set 2
That's Life
Blues Mama (John Borra)
The Lord Loves A Wino (Adam Olmstead)
If Wishes Were Horses
Brand New Song (Andrew Neville)
Hello Hello
talk - pie off
Georgia On A Fast Train (Billy Joe Shaver)
There Will Always Be A Small Time
encore break
Blue Mermaid Dress
Take Me To the Mountain (for Paul Sannella)

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Waterboys
Danforth Music Hall
November 5, 2007

Looking back, as I'm wont to do at this time of year, I see a handful of shows for which I never created a review.
Figure I'd fill the down time over the winter by revisiting those concerts.
Coming Soon: Tragically Hip, Arctic Monkeys, Joan Armatrading, Bruce Springsteen and more!

We'll start with The Waterboys.
For reasons I can't explain I never got around to doing a report on this show. It was at my favourite venue and it was excellent beyond expectations. I went only to hear Whole of the Moon and Fisherman's Blues and came away with an undying respect for Mike Scott's performance skills.

I like to study the bands I'm going to see in detail. Either they are new and the interweb has given me access to all they've done, or they've been around awhile and I'm familiar with their catalogue. This band falls into neither category for me. The two songs above are excellent, and pretty well the full scope of my exposure. That's something I should correct.

The W'Boys are touring Book of Lightning. Soul and spirit. Pointing a finger at the cowards who rule Burma and penning a love song to rival all.

Mike Scott must have warmed up his vocal chords in the dressing room because he launches the show at full force. Appropriate opening song, a Dylanesque-mini-Chimes of Freedom tolling for the fool and the clown, The Man With the Wind at His Heels is singing in the night. The song introduces a minor theme in tonight's set; the relationship between monarch and subject, government and citizen, oppressor and oppressed, and the forces of history on the lot of both parties.

The fight against the oppressors is not easy and Glastonbury Song is a testament, if it ain't a witness, to the source of the strength required to take on the task. Scott's inflection, pacing and voice are wonderful as he pounds out this power-pop song of faith found and spirit renewed. I'm not defender of the faith but I wouldn't go as far as the BBC and not play this song because the chorus makes you squirm. I'd have a little more respect for the art of the show.

Now armed with reason and weapons Scott slips into his best Bono-mode and takes up the fight with the military junta in Burma. After noting the band has been away from Toronto for too long, he introduces two topical songs and dedicates them to the "Burmese government, five terrified men," launching into the thinly-veiled threat that is It's Gonna Rain. Nothing shy about this indictment of the despots that predicts their inevitable fall in apocalyptic terms, reminiscent of Dylan's When the Ship Comes In in tone, but a backed by a full-on sonic attack.

Same message, different medium. Love Will Shoot You Down looks to the unwavering strength of the likes of Aung San Suu Kyi
and her brave followers and finds the weapon.

That was an intense quartet to open the show. Passionate deliveries on serious subjects without once denegrating into a boring diatribe. A calling to arms without the sanctimonious appeal to guilt. It's kind of like a Sting concert without Sting. And with rock n roll.

A change of pace in the show as we switch to a few introspective songs, starting with the emotion of love in Killing My Heart. There's a battle raging in this song. He belongs to another but he's not quite resigned himself to the loss of a former lover. Sneaky feelings he cannot speak.

The crowd responds with a burst of applause to the opening chords of Old England, from what I understand a rare outing. A bittersweet lament for the loss of, not imperial power because that would be wrong, but moral purpose and the subsequent loss of prestige. It happens to all empires and resonates in these days as we see the Western Empire, led blindly forward by it's new Captain, America, struggle to maintain it's death-grip and dignity, as if you could own both.
A slight modification to the lyrics; "and in Iraq he bangs his gong..." replacing the more timeless "and sticks his flag where it ill belongs...".

Umm, hang on here, isn't this about the music?

Well first a little soul, mixed with a dash of Scottish fantasy, as Mike Scott opens with the refrain from Mahalia Jackson's Since the Fire Started Burning in My Soul
and leads into his lengthy, otherwordly, Peace of Iona. This works as a soothing interlude in the show, time for the audience to relax, catch it's communal breath, float on a sea of orchestral music, complete with melodic chanting.

Intermission's over.

Let's have some fun.

Scott breaks the spell he's cast, snapping us back to the real world, the now, with the band introductions and after a brief intro jumps into a rollicking version of Raggle Taggle Gypsy. A reworking of the traditional tale Black Jack Davey, and perhaps a handful of other English ballads, only with gypsy's instead of pirates.

Then with no introduction we're right into a joyous version of Whole of the Moon. A perfect pop song, lightning in a bottle. I think even Mike was caught off-guard as he gives a little "Whoa! Whole of the Moon" at the end of the song, and it didn't sound sarcastic.

He pulls the band together for a little huddle and comes out talking spiritual songs, this one written by Johnny Mercer, as they kick into a fun-filled version of Accentuate the Positive. Fits nicely into tonights theme. "Thanks boys, that made my night," he says at songs end.

By this point we've already got great value for our money. The quality of the performance, the pace of the show, the connection between the artist and the audience, it's all tangible. But they're not done yet.

Sustain, written with Ida Nilsen, of Great Aunt Ida, tonight's opening act, is a little hard to figure out. Lyrically it's complex and it's allusion to a knight of the Round Table doesn't help me comprehend. However, aurally, it's a song of triump in tough times. The sentiment and emotion in the repetitive refrain is life affirming, even if the storyline is dense and inaccessible. I'd have someone tell me what it means but I fear it might ruin the song for me.

The next song was the highlight of the night and may be the third best live performance I've witnessed. (Dylan's Isis and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah being the other two.)It's an extraordinary love song and ranks close to Tangled Up In Blue as one of the best ever.

It opens with a bit of a whimper, a cliche that might have appeared on a motivational poster in a '70's headshop...if you love someone, let them go, if they return...yada,yada,yada.

She tried to hold me
She tried to hold me
She didn’t know
love is letting go

The chorus, while it's comparatively droll, is surrounded by some of the best writing pop music has seen. An economy of words that's astounding. The song covers a long period of time and changing perspectives and attitudes. Each line has a thousand unwritten words in its shadows. The images are cinematic; the emotions belong in the purview of the gods.

Lyrically it doesn't stray much from the album version, perhaps only the demon/devil switch but it is in another world when it comes to the performance. On the record it's a good song, better than average. Live, it's a volcano. The explosive parts are unrestrained in concert. His phrasing is razor sharp, not a word misses its mark. The inflection on 'perfection-strode-direction', 'unrealistic-ballistic','stairwell-farewell', are achingly poignant. The verses are precise, tight, aided by some outstanding couplets.

First verse; the courtship. No holding hands at the soda shoppe here. She's in charge, and on the prowl. In eight lines she tracks and controls her prey with a sense of purpose that might have been alluring, if not boner inducing.

She said ‘I’m looking for perfection’
as she strode in my direction
She cast her mantle round me,
said ‘I’m completed since you found me’
She executed her enchantment
secreted me in her encampment
With diversions and pretences
she dismantled my defences


Second verse; the conflagration. It's not like he wasn't warned. I love the juxtaposition of the 'powder blue pajamas' with the 'ballistic' girl.
And how excruciatingly telling are the descriptions of the combatants; 'flotsam in her drama', 'skin surrounding thunder', wow.

She told me I was unrealistic
and then she went ballistic
in her powder blue pajamas,
me some flotsam in her drama
She said “love’s what I believe in”
but inside she was seething
with a cyclone raging under
like she was skin surrounding thunder


Third verse; the escape. The tempo changes slightly now, from the titillating introduction to the explosive break up, we now get a more resigned view, with retrospection, though not reconcilation. A superbly visual octave, it's a moving picture. If there's a peak to this song, it's the plaintive cry in the closing couplet of this verse.

I made it to the stairwell
in the street I muttered farewell
with a driving wind agin me
and shame exploding in me
It took me six years to begin again
to feel secure in my own skin again
for she lingered like uranium
like a devil in my cranium


Fourth verse; the bitter-sweet residue. Looking back with rose-tinted glasses...or a new found respect for human short-comings. The tempo drops again, the voice, once bombastic, is now sympathetic. Scott's not finished working the song as his phrasing on 'deployed a little patience' and 'stipulations' leaves the lingering sense of a wish for a second chance that wasn't coming.

All this was long ago now
and if I knew then what I know now
I’d have deployed a little patience
I’d have laughed at all her stipulations
but I was young and I fumbled
a boy-fool whose castle crumbled
I couldn’t save her
though I forgave her


A tour de force. Takes your breath away like an Orkney Island winter.

Back to some Scottish dance-hall music, a jig, about a love-torn lad laying his claim and an undecided lady. When Will We Be Married? lets the band loose on another smile inducing tangent.

Scott's got a love for literature. Never more apparent than his attachment to WB Yeats. The Stolen Child is an adaptation from 1988. Just this past year he toured a whole set of Yeats poems set to music. A sad poem steeped in Irish mythology, about a world gone wrong, or a resigned ode to the passing of the light . I might never know.

Now while I've said a lot, I haven't said near enough about this band. They'll remain anonymous to me but they've matched Scott's intensity throughout the night. Some of these songs are orchestral, others flat out rock n roll. The arrangements vary from complex to a runaway freight-train. And they're tight. Very little downtime in this show. Even the stage patter was limited, consise and relevant.

Red Army Blues is a harrowing tale of a real-life tragedy that befell 2,000 Russia soldiers at the moment the Cold War was replacing the seemingly endless Wars for European Supremacy. Not at all out of place this evening as we think about the social contract we all have with our leaders, be they Kings, despots or elected officials.

The band lets loose again on an explosive version of Medicine Bow.Henry David Thoreau with an attitude.

Encore one opens with a chance to catch our breath as we get a cover of Springsteen's Independence Day. A treat, I saw Bruce in the '70's and the River Tour 4 times so it means something to me but it doesn't elevate the song beyond what Bruce did with it.

Back to the ethereal with The Pan Within. Sounds a little like an invitation to some tantric sex.

Second encore opens with the You In the Sky, like Glastonbury Song< , a song of devotion but there seems to be a communication problem.

Fisherman's Blues sends us off into the night, singing 'woo hoo', a more secular celebration of the wonder of life. It was great to hear the songs I knew, done with adherence to the original arrangement.

Sound samples under the hyperlinks.

Disc 1
T01 Intro
T02 The Man With The Wind At His Heels (Book of Lightning, 2007)
T03 Glastonbury Song (Dream Harder, 1993)
T04 It's Gonna Rain (Book of Lightning, 2007)
T05 Love Will Shoot You Down (Book of Lightning, 2007)
T06 Killing My Heart (Best of the Waterboys, 1991)
T07 Old England (Best of the Waterboys, 1991)
T08 Since the Fire Started Burning in My Soul/Peace of Iona(Mahalia Jackson cover/Universal Hall, 2003)

T09 Band Intro
T10 Raggle Taggle Gypsy
(Room To Roam, 1990)
T11 Whole of the Moon
(This Is The Sea, 1985)
T12 Accentuate the Positive
(Mercer/Arlen cover)
T13 Talk
T14 Sustain
(Book of Lightning, 2007)
T15 She Tried To Hold Me
(Book of Lightning, 2007)

Disc 2
T01 When Will We Be Married (Fisherman's Blues, 1988)
T02 The Stolen Child (WB Yeats, Fisherman's Blues, 1988)
T03 Red Army Blues
(Pagan Place, 1984)
T04 Medicine Bow
(This Is The Sea, 1985)
T05 encore break
T06 Independence Day
(Springsteen cover)
T07 The Pan Within (This Is The Sea, 1985)
T08 second encore break

T09 You In the Sky (Book of Lightning, 2007)
T10 Fisherman's Blues (Fisherman's Blues, 1988)