Tag Archives: Concerts

The Police’s Legacy Holds Up At Toronto Reunion Stop

The Police at the Air Canada Centre in 2007.

The Police at the Air Canada Centre in 2007.

LIVE: The Police
July 22, 2007
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario

A bass-playing Sumner and his two bandmates did a woeful job of bashing their way through a set of Coldplay-inspired rock ‘n’ lite reggae last night. It’s a good thing then, that it was Joe Sumner and his tepid foray into the family business known as Fiction Plane and not the main gig as anchored by Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner — better known to the world as Sting.

That Sting’s son’s band opened for The Police’s first tour appearance in Toronto since 1983 cast a nepotistic pall over the early evening — particularly considering Joe plays bass and yelp-sings almost exactly like his dad, minus the charisma. About their only high point was single “Two Sisters,” but even that was an act of imitation.

The short intermission video that took place during the changeover didn’t bode well either. Sure, everyone loves Bob Marley and footage of him doing sit-ups is fun, but the extended coverage of models walking catwalks was an inexplicable inclusion that seemed straight out of Fashion File‘s b-roll archives.

There was great relief then when Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland took to the stage to right early wrongs. They started off with the beloved “Message In A Bottle” and, with the house lights on high in the ACC, the sold-out show was instantly converted into a dancing, singing mass.

“Synchronicity II” made for an enjoyable first dip into deep-cut territory and “Walking On The Moon” triggered a football stadium-spirited singalong on top of showcasing Sting’s still-got-it pipes. Indeed, the singer effortlessly made everyone in the building feel common and inferior. The 55-year-old is still completely ripped — no doubt explaining the enthusiasm of the substantial hot suburban mom demo in the audience — and his voice has maintained itself with remarkable agelessness.

The medley of “Voices Inside My Head” and “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around” followed by “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “Driven To Tears” represented the low point of the show. It was a section of self-content adult-contempo that threatened to unravel the show’s early goodwill until all was corrected with the punkish “Truth Hits Everybody.”

That dynamic jolt was just what the audience and The Police needed to push the show from rote nostalgia into something more genuine. The next level fully hit when an elaborate percussion set, complete with giant gong, suddenly materialized for the start of “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” A wild-eyed Copeland managed to ratchet up his monomaniacal playing to even greater heights when he’d foray over to his more exotic kit.

A last quarter blast of hits “Invisible Sun,” “Walking In Your Footsteps,” “Can’t Stand Losing You” and a sprawled out jam of “Roxanne” sealed the deal. There was little of the much rumoured, much worried about jazz noodling, and lots of hits, which was just what the people wanted.

“King Of Pain,” “So Lonely” and “Every Breath You Take” represented the first encore. The playing of those tracks seemed a bit cursory, particularly on their big stalker hit and “Next To You,” which was something of an anti-climactic second encore closer. That said, The Police’s string of hits and technical competency retained an overall vibrancy rarely seen in the nostalgia/reunion/classic rock circuit. The result was a real and vital Police show still worthy of matching their legacy.

Here is the set list:

“Message In A Bottle”
“Synchronicity II”
“Walking On The Moon”
“Voices Inside My Head”
“When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around”
“Don’t Stand So Close To Me”
“Driven To Tears”
“Truth Hits Everybody”
“The Bed’s Too Big Without You”
“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”
“Wrapped Around Your Finger”
“De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”
“Invisible Sun”
“Walking In Your Footsteps”
“Can’t Stand Losing You”
“Roxanne”

Encore:
“King Of Pain”
“So Lonely”
“Every Breath You Take ”
“Next To You”

This review was originally published July 23, 2007 via Chart Communications.

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Samaritan News 10 Pack: Gord Downie, Metallica, More

Gord Downie

Gord Downie

Below are some of the stories I wrote for charity-focused entertainment site Samaritanmag back in the fall.

Metallica Will Headline Huge Benefit Concert to Help San Francisco Area Residents Affected By Wildfires

David Foster Foundation’s 30th Miracle Gala Raises $10.2 Million In Vancouver

WATCH: Gord Downie Wanted to Protect Our Water

Dolly Parton Donates Money and Books for Hurricane Relief Efforts

Downie and Wenjack Families Thank Canada for Support

Midnight Oil To Perform Benefit Show To Support Oceans

NABSDay Launched To Support Advertising Industry People In Time Of Need

LISTEN: Miley Cyrus Sings Teddy Bears Picnic To Protect B.C. Grizzlies

Late Tom Petty Supported a Number of Causes and Charities

Bruno Mars Helps Send Students To Grammy Music Camp

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Neil Young Cuts Through Le Noise At Massey Hall

Neil Young at Massey. (Copped this pic from Toronto Star.)

Neil Young at Massey. (Copped this pic from Toronto Star.)

LIVE: Neil Young
May 10, 2011
Massey Hall
Toronto, Ontario

Neil Young’s sold out Tuesday night show at Toronto’s Massey Hall was billed as a solo performance, but there was another pair of invisible guiding hands at work as well — those of Ancaster-born, U2 king-maker/super-producer Daniel Lanois.

While Young fell short of recreating the dizzy loops, echoes and fades that make his Lanois-produced latest album Le Noise such intoxicating headphone fodder, there was a barely sublimated sonic adventurousness — a hint of musical mischief and menace — that elevated the evening’s set into something more than just Neil. On a stool. At Massey.

Young’s experiencing a bit of a next-gen renaissance thanks to Le Noise, so it wasn’t particularly surprising the 65-year-old grunge godfather leaned heavily on the new album. Six of the 17 songs Young played were from the new record, but it was just as often what he did to his “classic” songs that revealed what his goal for the set was.

House-warmers “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue),” “Tell Me Why” and “Helpless” were played reasonably straight. The crowd — more sport-jacket and recently trimmed hair than hippie burnout (no doubt the result of a more evolved ability to navigate the minefield that is modern ticket purchasing) — was particularly moved by “Helpless,” going so far as to sing along to the chorus with about the same volume and self-consciousness as Leafs fans doing the first verse of “O Canada” at the ACC.

Rapt silence was the more appropriate response for Le Noise track “Peaceful Valley Boulevard.” A gauzy, sprawling number on record, it was equally haunting live and could fairly match melancholy Young masterpieces like “On The Beach” and “Expecting To Fly.”

The next two songs — Le Noise‘s confessional “Love And War,” and all-timer “Down By The River” — started to reveal the outline of the Lanois impact on Young’s performance. It wasn’t so much about Young copping signature Lanois sounds as it was about watching Young wandering across the stage, coaxing bits of feedback from his amps, or impishly turning the chorus of “Down By The River” into a five-second primer on My Bloody Valentine.

It was this casual tinkering while strolling about the various guitars, pianos and organs which was what making Le Noise must have looked like. Except instead of Young, guitar slung over his shoulder, all poking around Lanois’ house for an audience of one, here he was doing so in front of 2,800 people.

Young’s re-imagining of “Cortez The Killer” was a particularly good example. Its intro disguised by a brief squalling shock, Young eventually emerged from his soundcloud to lay down a version you just knew was exactly like one Lanois might have coaxed him to play while the two were defining the identity of the latest album.

That’s when it became clear what Young was doing. He wasn’t just rote recreating the sounds of Le Noise for the audience last night, he was trying to recreate “the vibe,” as he experienced it, of his own adventure in le noise.

And when he closed the show with the single encore “Walk With Me” and its opened-armed plea “I’m on this journey/I don’t want to walk alone,” he managed to bring a lot of people with him.

Neil Young setlist for May 10, 2011:

“My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)”
“Tell Me Why”
“Helpless”
“You Never Call”
“Peaceful Valley Boulevard”
“Love And War”
“Down By The River”
“Hitchhiker”
“Ohio”
“Sign Of Love”
“Leia”
“After The Goldrush”
“I Believe In You”
“Rumblin’”
“Cortez The Killer”
“Cinnamon Girl”

encore:
“Walk With Me”

This live review originally appeared in The Grid (RIP) in May 2011.

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Leonard Cohen’s Tribute Show In Montreal Was Heavy

Lana Del Rey and Adam Cohen. Photo by Claude Dufresne.

Lana Del Rey and Adam Cohen. Photo by Claude Dufresne.

Last Monday the Risky Fuel team made a pilgrimage to Montreal to pay our respects to the late, great musical poet, Leonard Cohen.

Titled, Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen, the Bell Centre event organized by Leonard’s son Adam Cohen featured big names like Elvis Costello, Sting, Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey to cover Lenny’s classic songs.

Those marquee names were fine, but it was the “singer songwriters” who really shone. Damien Rice and Patrick Watson were beautifully heavy and Adam, who seems to have fully embraced the family legacy, was uncanny (and unsettling) in his renditions of his father’s songs.

Sarah wrote about all this in a live review for Consequence of Sound.

To read it go here.

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Duran Duran And The Power Of Teen Girls

Duran Duran's concert film Arena (An Absurd Notion).

Duran Duran’s concert film Arena (An Absurd Notion).

More than three decades ago a concert film by Duran Duran called Arena (An Absurd Notion) featured spirited young women rising up and asserting their power against a cruel older male villain.

In its way, which was perhaps more artful, fanciful and grander than the average concert doc, the film seemed to predate and predict the coming of contemporary callout culture.

Sarah wrote about the film and its prescience for A.Side.

To read the story go here.

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Jeff Burrows Continues To Do 24 Hour Drum Marathons

Jeff Burrows

Jeff Burrows

Back in late-May Tea Party drummer Jeff Burrows pulled off his eleventh 24 hour drum marathon to support local charities in Windsor, Ontario.

Such an outlandish feat deserved some attention so I spoke to him about it, as well as his new drum tech-for-hire scheme, for Samaritanmag.

To read the story go here.

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Feist Makes Stellar Return at Star-Studded Toronto Show

Feist

Feist

LIVE: Feist
October 8, 2011
Glenn Gould Studios
Toronto, ON

Something strange has happened since Feist made us dance around with our iPods to The Reminder back in 2007.

And that strange thing is Florence and the Machine, Lykke Li, Lights, Jenn Grant, Dum Dum Girls, Warpaint, St. Vincent, Ohbijou, Rebekah Higgs, Bat For Lashes, My Brightest Diamond, Lavender Diamond, She & Him, Priscilla Ahn… The list goes on, but basically, in the time Leslie Feist has been out of the spotlight, her place in the musical hierarchy has more than ably been filled by a revolving cast of diverse, dynamic, world-class women who don’t resort to parading around in short shorts to peddle their art.

It would seem, then, that the position of Queen of Indie Rock has about as much job security as being a wife of Henry VIII.

That said, at an exclusive concert held Saturday (Oct. 8) at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio, Feist showed that with her new album, Metals, she maintains dominion over a loyal legion of followers.

The show — taped as part of the CBC’s 75th anniversary celebrations and set to air on CBC Radio 2 on Nov. 2 — wasn’t about royal courts so much as it was old-time radio variety programs — even if there were was a non-stop parade of guest musicians who came to swear fealty to the petite singer.

Biggest among these names was Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. They sang “You And I,” their duet from 2009’s Wilco (The Album), and their performance was one of the simpler renditions on a night that saw most Metals songs amped up significantly and many older Feist numbers rendered barely recognizable.

Feist and Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste did a quick run-through of his band’s AIDS charity song “Service Bell” before he helped out on Metals track “Cicadas and Gulls.”

Country crooner Doug Paisley temporarily brought us to the Grand Ole Opry with his song “Don’t Make Me Wait,” and theoretically, Joel Gibb of the Hidden Cameras and Feist’s take on the traditional “The Wagoner’s Lad” should have done the same thing. Unfortunately, that one mostly just felt awkward.

Probably the most natural union was the one between Feist and former Constantines singer Bry Webb. Considering Feist’s longstanding ties to Webb, the Cons and the Cons’ old foundation-building label Three Gut Records, the pair’s takes on the Metals track “The Bad In Each Other” and the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton classic “Islands In the Stream” felt effortless, even if Feist seemed a bit intimidated with Parton’s parts.

For all the excitement of having a gaggle indie stars in the building, Feist was at her regal best when the men weren’t interfering.

She was accompanied, in various permutations, by a string section, keys, drums, the backup singing trio Mountain Man and Happiness Project/Broken Social Scene member Charles Spearin, who seemingly played every instrument known to man throughout the night. It was this setup that brought out the best in the Metals songs.

In recorded form, Metals often comes across as too soft and gauzy. There are seemingly random choral stabs and clompy percussion bits rising out of that murk, but you’re frequently left wishing for the return of the finger-snapping, shimmy-shaking Feist of old.

Live, though, these songs are transformed. The melancholy “Comfort Me,” which may turn out to be the secret gem of Metals, started slow before roaring to life, becoming a percussive beast filled with multiple people drumming and Feist and the Mountain Man trio stretching themselves vocally. The song exists almost completely outside of the known Feist musical template, and if you ignored the fact that the central figure on stage was a beloved Canadian songbird, you could have momentarily thought you had stumbled into an …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead show.

Songs like “Bittersweet Melodies,” a relatively innocuous piece on Metals, got made into something far more vital with the help of Mountain Man, and their accompaniment added greatly to the set. Then there were those drums — played by two, three, or even four people on any given song.

Let It Die breakout single “Mushaboom” and Metals tracks “Caught a Long Wind” and “The Bad In Each Other” all benefited from this newer, heavier, more primitive treatment. And in an age when a little extra percussion has become a common musical hallmark of Feist’s contemporaries (Lykke Li’s single drumstick dance-drumming, in particular, comes to mind), it felt as though she was using the skin-beating for sending a message, not following trends.

These were not drums for dancing so much as they were drums of warning — war drums. Feist may have been as personable and sweet as ever Saturday night, but there’s a darker streak to her music now. And that thumping, pounding, smashing racket her cohorts were making was telling us something: Leslie Feist has returned, and she won’t be giving up her crown so easily.

This review was originally published October 9, 2011 via AOL Spinner.

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