Posts Tagged ‘ Live Review

Live Review: Robyn @ Sound Academy, Toronto 01/26/2011

This review originally appeared at Exclaim.ca.

Robyn’s self-directed reinvention finally seemed complete last year, when she unleashed her excellent Body Talk full-length. The album closed the book on her transformation from late ’90s teen-pop star into Euro-disco diva, embraced by indie-minded hipsters and, if her Toronto gigs are any indication, the gay community as a whole.

But as her star re-emerged on the pop-culture landscape, Robyn seemed to find herself right back where she started. Last fall, the Swede appeared on teen-drama phenom Gossip Girl, while she will be playing warm-up act to teen-pop sensation Katy Perry across North America this summer, playing some of the very same venues she turned her back on over a decade ago. So in reclaiming her image, has Robyn simply come full circle?

Her rescheduled performance at Toronto’s Sound Academy would suggest not. Drawing heavily on the dance-floor fillers that populate Body Talk, Robyn proceeded to throw down the gauntlet for all subsequent pop shows that role through town, swinging, dancing and twirling her way into the hearts of the sold-out audience who cheered her every move.

Robyn fills her songs with heartfelt emotion, giving her listeners an actual piece of herself as opposed to a manufactured version. Similarly, onstage Robyn gives a piece of herself to her audience and, in turn, feeds off their energy in a performance that is neither hindered by the shallowness of a singer like Perry or the choreographed and distracting spectacle of Lady Gaga.

Her exuberant personality won over even the most casual fans in attendance, as she had the entire bar dancing along to her three-piece band (her second drummer was mysteriously absent), who were decked out in white lab coats. Throughout the 90-minute set, the singer never wavered in her energy levels, stalking the stage with a determination that rivals Mick Jagger, grinding the air and generally defying physics with her flexibility and dance moves in a pair of impossibly huge platform shoes.

Whatever Robyn has in store for the future, it’s clear that she continues to occupy the driver’s seat of her own career. While she may continue to flirt with the mainstream she once abandoned, these dalliances are on her terms. If Robyn decides to move away from the fan base whose fervent adoration helped spread word of her resurrection, it will be of her own volition.

“Hang With Me”

Live Review: Hole @ Sound Academy 07/10/2010

This review originally appeared at Chartattack.com

Say what you want about Courtney Love, but she is an attention magnet. From the minute the Hole front-woman stepped onto the stage Saturday night, cigarette dangling from her fingers, all eyes in Toronto’s Sound Academy were on her.

Despite years in the spotlight as a professional fuck-up, Love still means a lot to her fans, especially her female admirers, for whom Love (at least at one point) represented the pinnacle of riot grrrl feminism’s penetration into the mainstream.

Unfortunately, Love and her trio of hired guns masquerading as a reunited Hole were unable to re-create the sound and the fury that brought the band to prominence in the ’90s.

Love started with a few lines from “Pretty On The Inside/Clouds” before segueing into a brief version of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil,” (the first of four covers) then finally settling on new track “Skinny Little Bitch.”

“Miss World” and “Violet” received rapturous applause and sing-alongs. Tunes off the recently released Nobody’s Daughter went over well with the crowd, but the band were unable to elevate them above the plodding versions found on the album. A jazzed-up take on Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” faired better, as did the always fantastic “Reasons To Be Beautiful.”

The band stuck with the rougher material, tossing in “Plump” and “Asking For It” in place of the more shimmering “Awful” and “Boys On The Radio” that they’ve been playing throughout this current tour.

Love’s voice was in top form, despite her age (she just turned 46). She also appeared incredibly lucid on stage for someone famous for public meltdowns and tirades.

But that couldn’t hide the fact that the band really seemed to be phoning it in. They lacked both the ferociousness of the Live Through This-era and the technical ambition of Celebrity Skin. Guitarist Micko Larkin and bass-player Shawn Dailey are poor stand-ins for Eric Erlandson and Melissa Auf Der Maur, who, despite being eclipsed by Love, were always strong personalities on stage. This current incarnation, meanwhile, performed Hole’s back catalogue with all the passion of a wedding band.

An all to brief set ended with “Doll Parts” before Hole returned for a four-song encore. The gig ended with Love and Larkin playing a sweet version of Big Star’s “Thirteen” before finishing the night with “Never Go Hungry.”

It was a pretty lackluster evening for a band whose legend has just grown since they last released a record 12 years ago. But that was secondary for all the fans who screamed for more even as the house lights came up; they were just happy to have their hero back.

Live Review: Love Is All, Crystal Stilts @ The Horseshoe

c43fb7344303b5a8e07713d27ee3Gothic bluesmen, Brooklyn hipsters and no-wave Swedes make strange bedfellows, so maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that a pair of ball-cap wearing ass-hats found it necessary to harass a group of girls while taking swings at the bouncers during Thursday night’s show at the Horseshoe Tavern. Not that the crowd noticed the half-dozen police officers snaking through the bar though — they were too busy grooving to Gothenburg group Love Is All’s screeching sax lines in the back.

Opening the night were Tropics, a local duo that ostensibly exists as an excuse for frontman Slim Twig to inflict sonic freak-outs on an audience. Anchored by Simone TB’s rock-solid drumming, Slim let loose, looping bursts of guitar over squelching feedback moaning and howling into the mic. Rumour going ‘round is that their set was recorded for a live cassette so keep your eyes and ears to the ground kids.

Much buzzed/blogged Brooklynites Crystal Stilts managed to live up to their own hype as a terribly unengaging live act, a frustrating fact since their music is really quite good. The quartet is by no means reinventing any wheels, but they did an excellent job of marrying slinky Suicide rhythm lines to ’60s surf/psych/garage guitars — think the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy minus all the feedback and fuzz. These songs could easily fit into any Quentin Tarantino soundtrack if it weren’t for lead singer Brad Hargett’s monotone delivery (is it possible to be pitch-perfectly tone-deaf?). Holding the disparate elements together was ex-Vivian Girl Frankie Rose, who dropped heavy, rudimentary beats on her stand up drum kit a la Mo Tucker. Still, it would have been nice for at least one of the group to feign interest in their own show. 

If there is a ying to Crystal Stilts’ yang, it’s Love Is All. The Swedish quintet oozed youthful vigor, offering playful banter and an enthusiastic performance. Live, Love is All’s music is stripped of the heavy reverb that marks their recordings, revealing a songwriting sensibility that sits comfortably between late ’70s New York no wave and Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy.” Their set leaned heavy on just released sophomore album A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, opening with “Wishing Well” and “Give It Back” before ripping through “Talk Talk Talk Talk” from their 2006 debut Nine Times That Same Song. Guitarist James Ausfahrt and bass player Johan Lindwall played Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard to lead singer Josephine Olausson’s Diana Ross chanting “one more time” in between Olausson’s speak-sing verses. An all too brief 45-minute set that included a deconstructed take on A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” was capped off with a two-song encore. That the audience left wanting more seemed fitting for a band with such lofty pop ambitions.

This story originally appeared on EYE WEEKLY’s website. 

Live Review – The Dears @ Music Gallery Oct. 9

There was an air of skepticism going into Thursday night’s Dears show at the Music Gallery. The band helped carry the torch to Montreal’s indie-rock renaissance three years ago but stalled with 2006’s Polaris-nominated but under-performing Gang of Losers and saw many contemporaries roar past them. The choice of such a small venue seemed to confirm that even The Dears themselves know a lot is riding on their forthcoming record Missiles. It’s a lot easier to meet your audience’s expectations when they’ve been sufficiently lowered.

But all skepticism was put aside when the band hit the stage and launched into the first of five straight new songs. The tunes blend the arena-rock leanings of Losers with the herky-jerk rhythms and traded lyrical barbs between Murray Lightburn and wife Natalia Yanchak that typified 2003’s No Cities Left. That album’s “Lost in the Plot” and “22: The Death of All Romance” were greeted warmly by the 150 people in attendance as were the new songs that filled out the rest of the set.

Lightburn is of course the band’s undisputed leader; only he and Yanchack remain from the group who made Losers two years ago, a fact that was obvious as the band looked intently to him for cues throughout the show. He was short on words for the audience, pausing only briefly mid-set to address the crowd with typical “how you all doing?” banter that even he thought was ridiculous (Although he was unintentionally hilarious when he responded to one fan’s cry of “we love The Dears!” with an equally patronizing “and The Dears love you.”)  But Lightburn looked genuinely humbled when, after finishing the final song of the night, he stepped down into the audience to exchange handshakes and hugs from appreciative fans in the front row.

This story originally appeared on EYE WEEKLY”s website.

Mugi-Boogie

So yeah, Queens of the Stone Age played down at the Cunard Centre last night, and yeah, they were awesome, but you can read about that all somewhere else on the Internet. What we’re going to talk about today is last night’s opening band Mugison. Mugison (pronounced Moo-gy-son) is the brainchild of  Örn Elías Guðmundsson and isone of Iceland’s top selling artists (that’s where he’s from if you hadn’t caught on yet). Normally he operates as a one-man plus laptop band, but for this tour he’s got a four peice backing band to beef his sound, giving the whole thing a beer-soaked blues on steroids vibe. The band hit the stage with an air of confidence around them and promptly launched into their set. Mugison’s songs run the gamut from Tom Waits’ caterwauling and Hawksley Workman’s falsetto with a little bit of Eels jagged edged blues mixed in for good measure. And ho-boy can these guys swing (Sasha Frere Jones should take note), thanks in no small part to their drummer who was standing up pointing his drum sticks at the crowd about as much as he was actually playing and the crowd ate it all up. If all this weren’t enough, the band played a second set later that night at the Seahorse Tavern. By the time this blogger got their the lineup ran up the stairs and across the front of the Economy Shoe Shop. So while I didn’t get in to see the band, I have no doubt that they had no trouble making new friends.