Being There

Ruminations on Music, Film and Culture

Flower

Archive for the ‘Live Review’ Category

Boy, Shaker, and Matt Mays & El Torpedo

Lee’s Palace in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
September 25th, 2004

Boy: Rating: ★★★☆☆
Shaker: Rating: ★★★★☆
Matt Mays & El Torpedo: Rating: ★★★★☆

Lee’s Palace feels empty for a Saturday night. About fifty people sit around waiting, talking, and enjoying a beer. Ready for the band to arrive, the crowd waits patiently as Boy prepares to take the stage.

Boy are five men: guitar, drums, more guitar, bass and keys/slide guitar/more guitar. Blasting the venue with loud guitars, Boy is capable of getting the few people at the venue moving. Poorly mixed, the audio is muddy with vocals and the Rickenbacker guitar is drowned out. Generic rock is a term that can be used to describe Boy, but they brought something else to the atmosphere. Not the greatest songs, not the greatest musicianship, but a good start to a good night of music. Fun songs, fast beats, and a feeling of 1970s rock, all collided into a wall of rock and roll.

Shaker provides some all out gut wrenching rock and roll as Lee’s Palace slowly fills to capacity. Great songs (helped by a significantly improved sound mix) following the sounds of such greats as The Allman Brothers Band and Neil Young, Shaker are able to rock out loud while still retaining a sense of melody, something lacking in a lot of bands today. Seeming to know how to handle the audience, Shaker takes control of the stage presenting a rock and roll spectacle without the need for fancy lights and stage. Ripping up in a jam and enjoying the music they’re playing. With very few mistakes in their playing, Shaker is a very tight band which seems to be heading in the right direction.

Perhaps modeling himself a bit too much on Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, Matt Mays is able to bring the night home. Moving away from the alt.country label which has followed him since his days with the Guthries, Mays now carries an air of rock royalty in his music. Filling Lee’s Palace, the floor is packed all the way to the bar. Song after song, everything is great. His CD contains a who’s who of Canadian rocksters including Bob Egan (Wilco & Blue Rodeo), Mike O’Neill (The Inbreds), Dave Marsh (Joel Plaskett Emergency), Charles Austin (Super Friendz) and many more. El Torpedo are able to live up to the great musicianship found on the record and reproduce it live with great results. Matt Mays leads them from song to song clearly enjoying the performance which bounces onto the audience.

A great show all around. All three performers were very good, only getting better as the night goes along. At 2 AM, Mays finished his set, the band cleared the stage and the audience slowly left Lee’s Palace.

Album Review: Let It Die by Feist

Album rating: Rating: ★★★½☆

Concert rating:Rating: ★★★★☆

When the wee and lovely Leslie Feist recently released Let It Die (with assistance from collaborator Chilly Gonzales), the album fell into a pit of hyped-out, ultra-critical music fans, weaned on the stylings of Feist’s more musically byzantine contemporaries.  In the face of this difficult audience, Let It Die was generally accepted, and in some circles, heralded.  Employing ’80s synths and a post-mod production ethos, the album points to the inevitable mid-’90s revival that will surely soon descend upon us.

The Paris-based Feist (via Toronto, among other Canadian locales) is a transient member of the Broken Social Scene assemblage.  As such, Feist had serious expectations of merit and method awaiting this release. She offers up a distinctive and engaging sound – while her own songs are largely unoriginal in form, they are pretty, seductive, and viscerally appealing.  Her vocals are pure and insistent, yet sometimes take on an almost plugged quality.  Feist’s lyrical prowess is similarly uneven, at turns adept and largely flawed.

The album focuses on the span of emotional tumult that, along with low-fi artistic endeavors, myriad educational pursuits, and the construction of a precarious personal identity, defines the mid-twenties urban bohemian experience. The first track, “Gatekeeper”, is a spare, ragged paen to loving and living in the present. This leads into “Mushaboom,” the album’s real opening statement, which lusts after a calmer, more settled life before such a thing is in the realm of possibility.

The title track is watery and dreamy, a song that tempts one to succumb to the languid and dreamy mood, emblematic of the album’s overarching vibe. The greatest line on the record may not be that which is taken from this song and emblazoned across the liner notes, “The saddest part of a broken heart/Isn’t the ending so much as the start,” but instead “The tragedy starts from the very first spark,” which falls alone in the last verse.

The beauty of seduction runs through Let It Die like blood through the veins. There has been a marked absence of lighthearted sleaze in music these days – few albums of late have contained the quirky, bouncy sexiness of Let It Die, which is especially evidenced on “One Evening” and the appealing “Leisure Suite.”  A relaxed disco-lounge track with sweet and silly sexual repartee (“Don’t come knocking/ This door’s for locking” and “Just a place to meet/ And do what we do when we’re there”), “Leisure Suite” is a request to forgo the usual bullshit and kick back naked on a faux-bearskin rug.  The quietly shimmying beats, breathy vocals and sentiment of fleeting love invoke a mod aesthetic and a winking narrator.  Similarly, a laissez-faire, Euro-sexy sensibility is (appropriately) apparent on the track that the venerated Frenchie François Hardy wrote, “L’amour ne dure pas toujours” (which, based on a loose translation, means “love doesn’t last forever”).  This song does, however, indulge in the trappings of ironic techno, a genre not entirely ready for its return to the forefront.

The most depressing rhythmic clap-along of the year is found on Feist’s version of “When I Was A Young Girl.”  And clap they did, when Feist performed at a “surprise” appearance at Toronto’s Sneaky Dee’s as part of the Wavelength music series.  Although she contended with a sore throat that affected her normally impressive range, Feist was buoyed by an enthused introduction by Kevin (Wavelength host/Rotate This shop boy) and a receptive audience.  Feist employed a minimalist setting, using only her guitar and some pre-recorded effects, and where too many musicians would come off as barren, Feist exploded. Her bold, fluid guitar sounds matched her rich vocals, which in addition to Feist’s call for the crowd to make out with each other, played into the “love is all around” vibe that flowed through the Sneaky Dee’s upstairs bar, and indeed throughout the ultimately solid and worthy Let It Die.