Tag Archives: Concerts

The Many Questions About The Roy Orbison Hologram Show

Roy Orbison In Dreams hologram show

Roy Orbison In Dreams hologram show

It was with some intense curiosity that Sarah and I recently attended a performance of the Roy Orbison “In Dreams” hologram show.

Would the show be good? Would the music be good? How realistic would the hologram be? These were all obvious questions going into the show.

These were not, however, the questions Sarah ended up pondering at length after watching the whole thing.

She wrote on all these questions in a piece for Medium.

To search for answers go here.

 

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10 Best Before They Die Concerts Of 2018: Neko Case Is #1

Suicidal Tendencies live in Toronto.

Suicidal Tendencies live in Toronto.

Those closest to me know I’ve been on a years long quest to see live performances from a meticulously curated list of musical legends and personal favourites “before they die.”

Said list, which has a 100 active acts on it at all times and is prioritized based on 1) how much I love an act, 2) how soon I think they’re going to die, and 3) how rarely they tour, has guided me on numerous adventures and (mis)adventures over the years. Mostly, though, it has allowed me to witness a lot of music greats doing musically great things.

For the first time ever, I’ve compiled my 10 best Before They Dies of the year. Here they are:

10) Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra @ Scotiabank Arena, August 18, 2018 (#52 on list)

Lynne isn’t exactly a dynamic frontman, but the band was excellent, the stage and light show was a trip and the music was undeniable, even though the setlist was surprisingly front-loaded. I had an alternating mix of “Showdown” and “Evil Woman” in my head for weeks after this. Always a good sign.

9) The Horrors @ Horseshoe Tavern, June 19, 2018 (#76 on the list)

One of the key things I’ve learned about The List over the years is that when an act from overseas is in town, you do your damnedest to make sure you go see them. Technically, there wasn’t all that much to “see” at The Horrors’ show — they’re mostly a bunch of Edward Scissorhand silhouettes swaying in low light obscured by fog machine smoke — but that made what was heard all the better. Live, there’s added nuance to the band’s lysergic goth rock, revealing itself in a bold synth line here, a guitar squelch there and in a vibe that makes you feel you’re experiencing masters of their craft.

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The Horrors!

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8) Fleetwood Mac @ Scotiabank Arena, November 5, 2018 (unrated)

I didn’t know I needed the Mac in my life. This, because as a Stevie Nicks devotee who had already seen Nicks solo and witnessed her sing “Rhiannon” I naively thought I had already experienced the best of the Mac. I was wrong. The best of the Mac might be when the band decided to reclaim their blues roots and perform the Peter Green-written “Black Magic Woman” with Nicks in full, glorious witch-rock mode. It’s an amazingly macabre look that I didn’t know Fleetwood Mac had in them and I’m completely turned around on them because of it.

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The Fleetwood party and dance band.

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7) Nick Cave @ Scotiabank Arena, October 28, 2018 (#93 on the list)

I get the Nick Cave devotion now. I mean, as a concept I’ve always thought Cave was cool, but his records never moved me all that deeply and the film he wrote (The Proposition) had probably affected me more than any song he’d ever sung. Seeing Cave live, though, is a far different experience. It’s like a Springsteen rock ‘n’ roll communion, except for sort of people who own complete Leonard Cohen poetry collections. Live, Cave’s an intuitive, showy, sleazy, Vegas-y, hearty and genuine showman who’s personal connection to his audience is amazing to behold. Also, the bold noise The Bad Seeds make feels like they’re subverting the whole idea of “arena” rock, which is delicious in its way.

6) Destroyer @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, January 22, 2018 (#103 on the list)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show, but I was very pleasantly surprised by what it was — an eight-piece jazz/prog/lounge art freakout that featured Dan Bejar flanked by a saxophonist and trumpeter who took turns adding their own wig outs throughout the set. The set list was mainly the new album ken and Kaputt so I was pretty keen because those are the two best Destroyer albums. It was all around a totally rewarding night.

5) Frank Turner @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, September 20, 2018 (unrated)

There are a lot of acts out there trying to pull off the Springsteen working man rock thing. Unfortunately, most of them only rate as photocopies of photocopies of The Boss. Turner’s not like that. He’s got his own rock-punk posi-gospel thing going down and, paradoxically, because of that Turner’s show is probably the closest to a Springsteen-like musical sermon I’ve seen from the younger generation.

4) The Pursuit of Happiness @ Supermarket, October 4, 2018 (unrated)

In the last few years I’ve managed to catch a number of ’80s Can-Rock heroes (Northern Pikes, Crash Vegas, Slow) I had never listed because I never realistically thought there’d ever be a chance to see any of them ever play again. When TPOH got back together to play a show to support the reissue of their perfect Love Junk album I put on the rare (for me) industry hustle to get into the small club show. It worked and I got to witness some of my all-time favourites (“Consciousness Raising As A Social Tool,” “I’m An Adult Now,” “Beautiful White”).

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Consciousness raising as a social tool.

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3) Suicidal Tendencies @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, July 25, 2018 (#34 on the list)

This was supposed to be a fun nostalgia trip where I could celebrate listening to “Institutionalized” and “Possessed To Skate” some three decades ago, but it ended up being far more than that. It turns out I had internalized many of these thrash-punk-metal songs far more than I had ever realized. I hadn’t listened to songs like “You Can’t Bring Me Down” in almost 30 years, but the righteous rage behind them came right back.

2) John Mellencamp @ Meridian Centre, St. Catharines, October 7, 2018 (#6 on the list)

Pursuing this list over the years has given me a special kind of clarity about what I’m willing and not willing to do in order to see a desired show. Things like cost, whether it’s a seated or standing venue, the weather, and whether I’ve got other social obligations are just some of the factors that go into a decision-making stew to cross-reference against The List. For John Mellencamp I was willing to ruin Thanksgiving. Well, not my Thanksgiving, so much as my attendance at my in-law Thanksgiving, which I skipped in order to see the man formerly known as Cougar. And it was worth it. I cried like five times and was pretty choked a half-dozen others. All those songs I loved from the Scarecrow album still hit and still have all the gravitas of back when I first discovered them — “Minutes To Memories” was heavy, “Small Town” fucking killed… it was all hits with heart. Also, the new songs were soooo woke. It was probably the first and only time an audience of old white people from St. Catharines would ever be confronted with a song about Black Lives Matter and were forced to consider it. Same with issues like immigration and racism. Basically, Cougar came into this backwoods city and preached. Also, it’s remarkable now that I can see it more clearly how much the politics of a record like Scarecrow shaped my world/political/moral values some decades later. Shows like this are why The List exists.

1) Neko Case @ Danforth Music Hall, September 24, 2018 (#25 on the list)

Technically, I’ve seen Neko Case a number of times already, although all of those times have been as a member of The New Pornographers. Which is weird because I enjoy her solo work far more than the Pornos. That said, when I finally got to see Case on my birthday this year I wasn’t expecting to have it affect me as deeply as it did. What’s clear is that Neko is a glorious, unique voice and no matter what she was singing (this night’s setlist skipped handfuls of my personal faves) she has the ability to turn each song into magic. “Maybe Sparrow,” “Margaret vs Pauline,” “Deep Red Bells,” “Look For Me I’ll Be Around”… I just have to look at that list and I not only can remember how wonderful they were, I can almost feel them again. If that’s not a sign of having experienced something beyond, I don’t know what is.

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Smashing Pumpkins Play Supposed Farewell Toronto Show

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

By uncompromisingly kicking-off this small venue gig with the 10-minute epic “Glass And The Ghost Children,” Billy Corgan and his Smashing Pumpkins crew set the tone for the rest of the night — they may be a huge rock band, but they’re still going to do whatever the hell they want to, when they want to and how they want to.

Regardless, two-plus hours of music and 20-some songs (considering the last third of the show deteriorated into a noodling session of cover songs and medleys) the Smashing Pumpkins proved they were not only ace rockers, but also ace facilitators of what could be described as a drunken goth-rock parody of a Promise Keepers convention.

Whether it was through pummeling the crowd with a sped up “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” or through the irony-fist-pump posturing of “Heavy Metal Machine,” it was obviously Lord Billy could do no wrong this night. It also would seem that we were witnessing the next step in Billy Corgan’s evolution from angsty grunge god to a mellower Buddha rock god, if you’ve got the comic book sensibilities to follow.

Corgan’s profuse bowing to the audience, “god blesses” and such would seem crass coming from someone of his elevated status if he hadn’t seemed so damn genuine when he was doing them. And it was ultimately this genuine affection which helped ensure the Pumpkins got over this night. The actual show was somewhat spotty, what with the aforementioned noodle-jam off going on between Corgan and fellow guitarist James Iha and the Pumpkins’ collective slavish devotion to meddle and alter their songs.

“Zero” was viciously rendered, but “Cherub Rock” seemed to be one of the few songs where the Pumpkins acted like they were just going through the motions.

Perhaps the highlight of the night came when Corgan performed a solo acoustic cover of Rush’s “Limelight.” All I’ll say about that one is that when you think about it, it’s shocking how many people know all the words to the average Rush song.

When Iha did a twisted take on Them’s “Gloria” instead as “Canada.” (“C-A-N/A-D-A/Cannnn-ada”), the crowd were more than happy to take the bait, not in small part because it gave them an excuse to shout their catcall flatteries to new bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur.

Much less the foil-for-the-frontperson she was in Hole, Auf Der Maur still managed to blow a few kisses and throw out the goat horns on multiple occasions.

Much less flattering however was what could be called the “Tribute To Howlin’ Wolf Set To The Tune Of Crawling King Snake.” This probably represented the musical low-point for the evening, despite the fact a sizable segment of the audience were actually howling along with Corgan when he’d “HOOOWWWLLL!!” into the mic.

Still, despite whatever low-lights there were, for any devotee of the Pumpkins, this was undoubtedly a night of music bliss. They pulled out old classics like “I Am One” and blistered through new tunes like “The Everlasting Gaze.” And the bonus outpouring of affection from Corgan to the audience proved that love is truly all you need.

This story was originally published March 22, 2000 via Chart Communications

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Samaritan News 10 Pack: Metallica, Hayden And More

Metallica

Metallica

My contributions to the charitably-minded entertainment site Samaritanmag continue. Here are some pieces I wrote in the summer:

City And Colour, Barenaked Ladies Headline Hayden’s Fifth Dream Serenade Charity Concert

Third Annual Autism Rocks LA Concert Aims To Raise Autism Awareness

PETA Wants Aretha Franklin’s Fur Coat Collection for Repurposing Campaign

Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Steve Earle, Graham Nash Tour To Support Refugees

Donate To Metallica’s Charity, Earn Chance To See All Their Shows

Danforth Strong GoFundMe Page Established for Shooting Victims

England Players Have Been Donating World Cup And Related Tournament Fees To Charity Since 2007

Xavier Rudd and Emmanuel Jal Release Song to Spread Love

Rae Sremmurd Use New “Guatemala” Video To Support Country After Deadly Volcano Eruption

Metallica Donate Polar Prize Proceeds To Three Charities

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The Circus That Was The Strokes

The Strokes' Is This It

The Strokes’ Is This It

If you happened to be sauntering around Queen West yesterday in search of new pants or maybe some fancy boots, you’d have surely noticed the untold amount of Sloan Pretty Together posters stapled to, literally, every post along Queen between John and Spadina. If you didn’t know there was a new Sloan record coming out before yesterday, you sure as hell know now. You may have also noticed the ridiculous line-up of people trying to get into the Horseshoe.

That Sloan were getting some street-marketing love from their new label BMG Canada isn’t shocking. But what was interesting was how it represented just a small part in an elaborate plan that would pay off most effectively around 12:30 a.m. later that evening as The Strokes triumphantly strode off the stage from their free show at the Horseshoe Tavern.

The invasion of the much-hyped Strokes proved an excellent opportunity for piggy-backing. Along with aforementioned New Yorkers, their label BMG Canada coyly set up an early evening showcase with Copyright. The catch, if you wanted to get a “privileged” ticket to guarantee admission to The Strokes, you had to go to the Copyright showcase at the Rivoli to pick up said ticket. It was a sly move for sure and it seemed to pay dividends as the plied-with-free-liquor insiders gave Tom Anselmi and crew surprisingly hearty round of cheers, though more mean-spirited colleagues of ours took great pleasure in deriding bass player Eric Marxsen’s Archie Bunker rock ‘n’ roll look.

And then it was off to the madhouse… It was a mighty surreal sight to behold a line-up to get into the Horseshoe that stretched well past The Rivoli and was three or four people wide. Clearly, a lot of folks were going to be sent home unhappy but the optics of such a ridiculous display must have been pure gold in The Strokes’ camp.

Shortly after the ‘Shoe doors were flung open and the kids with dollar bills between their teeth dutifully attacked the merch table, troubadour Pete Yorn took to the stage. He started off on the right foot with a cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” — an effective move considering the crowd of hipsters and anglophiles in attendance — but lost much of that initial steam when the weight of the inane chatter filling the club rendered him mute.

Around this time the celeb spotting began in earnest. There was Patrick Pentland from Sloan, some members of Treble Charger, Copyright, Robin Black and his ubiquitous posse of spandex casualties, hip-hopish upstart K-OS, Neil Leyton, members of Wayne Omaha and Maximum RNB and no doubt a whole bunch of others that we didn’t see just because it was too damn packed to actually move.

For the more disgruntled types, pretty much every high-profile music reporter in the city was hovering around as well, including reps from the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Eye, Now, local radio and Much as well as no less than 10 different Chart writers. All it would have taken was one well-timed machine gun attack and there’d be no more scathing condemnations of Big Wreck, Big Sugar, Our Lady Peace, The Watchmen or any of the other usual suspects we rock reporter types use as fodder for our elaborately constructed punchlines.

And speaking of punchlines, let us discuss The Moldy Peaches’ wardrobe. We’ll start with Adam Green, the skinny acid-casualty of a singer whose range of facial expressions ranged from vacant to, um, vacant. For one, guys wearing hats like that need to be shoved in lockers, and two, what the hell was that gossamer poncho get-up? Really? We’ve got to start a whole new paragraph for Green’s singing companion Kimya Dawson. Looking like a cruel experiment between an understudy for Cats and too many cheeseburgers, Dawson was somewhat more entertaining, though the cat-calls of “Get off the fucking stage!” were getting hurled at her and her band with regularity.

At least they played their anthem “Who’s Got The Crack” quite well, though few of the stern, and by this time sardine-packed, audience members picked up on the wonderful singalong possibilities of chanting “Who-woo-woo’s got the crack?” over and over. Opportunities lost, children.

From there it was on to The Strokes. The band were clearly on the top of their game as they ran through virtually every song from their Is This It album. Though the record isn’t even officially out yet in Canada, MP3s and a fortuitously early Australian release of the album meant a substantial number of the multi- hundred jammed into the ‘Shoe knew songs like “Hard To Explain” and “Someday” intimately.

Considering the stodgy and downright prickishly cold nature of most Toronto audiences, the zeal that bordered on fanaticism in support for the band was a sight to behold. It’s rare that the icy reserves of such a collection of know-it-alls and too-cool-for-schools would be broken down so effectively, but that’s because The Strokes showed and proved all of their advance billing. The band’s rock ‘n’ roll swagger made every machination, line-up and invasion of personal space moot.

Commence your “I saw them when” stories now.

This story was originally published October 3, 2001 via Chart Communications

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Nine Inch Nails Thrive In Toronto

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

LIVE: Nine Inch Nails
August 5, 2008
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario

It’s fitting that Nine Inch Nails blasted through a vital rendition of “Survivalism” as a sort of thrown-down gauntlet three-quarters of the way through their two-hour show at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Outwardly, “Survivalism” was simply a puzzle piece from 2007’s Year Zero near-dystopian concept album, and just another in a long line of NIN founder Trent Reznor’s successful industrial pop metal sloganeerisms, but it was really far more than that last night.

Most of Reznor’s peer group from the ’90s, be they alterna-nation rockers like The Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden, or industrial rivet bangers like Ministry or Nitzer Ebb, have faded to somewhere between obscurity and parody. Meanwhile, the show that the Nails put on for the near-capacity arena crowd proved that not only has Reznor survived, but he also remains positively vital.

It started innocently enough with a triple pack of “1,000,000,” “Letting You” and “Discipline,” all from NIN’s latest album, The Slip. Normally a veteran artist blasting you with three tracks from the new album to start a show ranks around the level of getting greyhounded, but apparently when you give the album away for free and everyone in the audience owns it, everything changes. “Letting You” was particularly sly. Played to a hammer-fisting audience who’ve just paid good coin on a Tuesday night, it probably wasn’t the audience who were getting away with something in the end…

“March Of The Pigs” was the first dip into the catalogue and it sent the general admission soldiers, be they normie or freak (a ratio of about 9:2 for the evening), into a lather. “Closer” was its obligatory singalong best, making the groupthinkers feel dangerous for screaming “I want to fuck you like an animal.” There were better moments, though.

Like “Gave Up.” With all due respect to Nevermind or whatever, I’m reasonably convinced Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP is probably the most defining we’re-generation-X-and-we’re-all-fucked record that came out of the ’90s. Little has changed and that song and “Wish,” which was played later, remain among the fiercest things in Reznor’s catalogue. Both were performed entirely viciously.

The show really got interesting after “Gave Up,” though.

I’ve been suckered into more than a few “multimedia extravaganzas” and will probably never forgive the bands on the Invisible Records roster for having to suffer through a supposed groundbreaking Scorn tour package back in my giant-booted days. But what I was about to witness ranked close to mind-blowing.

It started relatively innocently with what appeared to be a Kraftwerk homage for “Vessel.” The band lined up at the front of the stage, banging keyboards with a dizzying giant curtain of red LED light strips playing patterns close behind them. It felt like Reznor was playing coy, and I thought it was because he was subverting the masses by laying down some truly old-school Wax Trax-style electro squelch-stomp.

That wasn’t it.

The band went back behind the curtain to play a number of “Ghost” instrumentals and that’s when things got truly crazy. Words can’t quite explain, but somewhere in the digital mind-melt of multiple screens swishing around we went from Arrakis to some weird marsh-type place to a rain storm in the jungle. If I was 16 and on mushrooms (and if security wasn’t being unnaturally buzzkill by hunting down dope-smokers all night) it just may have been the greatest thing I had ever seen in my life.

It still ranked solidly despite the lack of psilocybin.

The final stretch was a bit of a letdown. “Only” was just tolerable, “The Hand That Feeds” didn’t jump the way it should have and last-before-encore track “Head Like A Hole” was played with enthusiasm, though the best it could do for me was stir up some wistful nostalgia for a song I’ve long since burned out on.

The encore of “Echoplex,” “The Greater Good,” “The Good Soldier,” “Hurt” and “In This Twilight” was a bold choice, what with Reznor sticking mostly to newer material. “Hurt” should probably be retired, if for no other reason than to protect the audience from itself and the embarrassing things its members do, say and shout during the song. But most of the fans stayed glued to their seats to the end — no bailers, no lightweights — throughout the new songs. In the world of symbology, that’s not the sign of a band surviving. That’s the sign of a band still thriving.

This review was originally published August 5, 2008 via Chart Communications.

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Samaritan News 10 Pack: Oprah, Bruce Springsteen, Tech Donations, More

Oprah

Here are some of the stories I did for the charitably-minded entertainment site Samaritanmag awhile back:

Watch and Read Oprah Winfrey’s Inspired Me Too-Related Golden Globe Speech

Powered By Love Book Focusing On African Grandmothers Being Used To Combat AIDS

#DonateTech Campaign Seeks Radios, Fax Machines, Phones, Computers & More

Candy Crush Saga Games Team With (RED) To Fight AIDS

Bruce Springsteen “Land of Hope & Dreams” T-Shirt Supports Why Hunger

Vegas Strong Benefit Concert To Feature The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Boyz II Men

Stevie Nicks, The Weeknd, Selena Gomez Memorabilia Part Of MusiCares Holiday Auction

Shana Falana on New Song and Video: ‘This is about as political as I get’

New WWF Canada CEO Says Addressing Loss Of Wildlife Will Be Top Priority

Five Ways to Celebrate World Kindness Day

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