Tag Archives: Concerts

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”
“You Never Call”
“Peaceful Valley Boulevard”
“Love And War”
“Down By The River”
“Sign Of Love”
“After The Goldrush”
“I Believe In You”
“Cortez The Killer”
“Cinnamon Girl”

“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



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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The Rolling Stones Get Through Richards’ Tumble

The Rolling Stones' Licks tour.

The Rolling Stones’ Licks tour.

LIVE: The Rolling Stones
October 16, 2002
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, ON

The first time I ever encountered The Rolling Stones was at the home of one of my father’s biker drinking buddies. As a curious 10 year old, I’d rifle through the biker’s records, judging them almost solely on the look of the album covers. It’s when I got to The Stones’ Goat’s Head Soup that my impression of the band was forever calcified.

Musically, the album’s best moment is the melancholy ballad “Angie,” but what really struck me was the pull-out poster sleeve of actual goat’s head soup. I stared at that photo for a long time. It was kinda gross, but also compelling, dangerous and very, very evil. It was also the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

As I continued to learn more about The Stones and music in general, their mystique continued to grow. Maggie Trudeau. Heroin busts. Sympathy For The Devil. Brian Jones. Hell’s Angels. Altamont. Exile On Main Street. It all swirled together to create a vision of one of the most vital and nasty rock ‘n’ roll bands in history.

But that is history and this is 2002. Some 40 years after their inception, The Rolling Stones are a different band. The danger is now clouded in a thick fog of nostalgia and that rambling, rollicking rock band has morphed into an efficient, effective touring machine, a cash-hoovering monster trading in on waves of feel-good familiarity.

And therein lies the dilemma. I knew going into the Stones show at the Air Canada Centre that this wasn’t going to be the barroom romance of Love You Live or the vital near-punk of Got Live If You Want It. But I was certainly hoping for more than a slap-dash of the hits, count the money and prep-the-next-set-of-suckers run-through.

Things got off to a dubious start. With the exception of what appeared to be every aging stripper in the G.T.A., the crowd was well-heeled, well-lubricated, well-greyed and well-girthed. More disturbing, however, was Keith Richard’s dramatic tumble across the stage to kick-off set opener “Street Fighting Man.”

Watching any near senior citizen take a tumble is unsettling, but seeing Keith Richards do so to start a show is even worse. Still, considering the audience shared what was likely a knowing sympathy, there was little in the way of gawking, audible gasping or otherwise.

As the band went into “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” Richards still seemed off his game, which only served to reinforce how valuable Ron Wood is. As the Richards jester routine began to right itself, Woods held down the fort going into song three, “If You Can’t Rock Me.” Sublimely cool, through the course of the evening Wood’s solos and slidework would polish and refine Richards’ antics and Mick Jagger’s posturing.

The pairing of “Don’t Stop” and “Rocks Off” would introduce the multimedia portion of the show, with the first of many lip/tongue montages displayed on a huge screen backdrop. That was followed by a lurid short film featuring young, nubile and sexually ambiguous model types getting drunk and feeling each other up. Up until this point everything was rather perfunctory and a not just a little bit embarrassing.

Then came “Love In Vain.” Slow and dirty, this song was a breakthrough. Where up until then The Stones were aging hit-peddlers, here they were world-wizened blues-rock masters. “Let It Bleed” and “Monkey Man” continued to fuel this resurgence. By this point Jagger was in full frontman mode, strutting and cocky.

Richards came to life as well, playing particularly vibrantly on “Monkey Man.” The plodding audience clapalong in “Gimme Shelter” and Jagger’s fumbling faux sex-up with backup singer Lisa Fischer brought things back down again, but this wasn’t the lowlight of the evening. That was reserved for the Richards-sung double-shot of “Thru And Thru” and “Happy,” followed by “Start Me Up” and “Honky Tonk Woman.”

The fault with the Richards songs is obvious and my distaste for “Start Me Up” is a strictly a personal idiosyncrasy. But “Honky Tonk Woman” was a whole different set of weird. The band were incidental to what could be described as Stones anime porn flashing on the big screens, where a topless Betty Page-type lewdly rode a pierced tongue. That may pass for dangerous in the ‘burbs, but it was more just embarrassing.

Still, in what was slowly developing as the theme for the evening, a moment of bad was framed by a moment of sublime. In this case “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” Once again returning to their roadhouse roots, this song, faithfully rendered and stretched out with Jagger harmonica and Wood guitar solos, recaptured the vitality that represents the best attributes of the Stones.

“Satisfaction” was a crowd-pleaser, but the true highlights came when the Stones shifted operations to an “intimate” stage set up in the middle of the floor. Packed together and shorn of the high walls and barricades that quash intimacy, the band tore into “Mannish Boy,” “Neighbours” and a singalong “Brown Sugar.” This was clearly the Stones at their most fiery. Charismatic, swaggering and mere inches from their audience, the band ended their regular set in dramatic fashion.

By the time band returned to the main stage for the encores of “Sympathy For The Devil” and “Jumping Jack Flash,” many of the evening’s earlier transgressions had been forgotten. Having taken it all in, I realized you can’t go back. Heck, I wasn’t even there in the first place — I was still a baby when many of the Stones most dangerous moments actually took place. But for a few minutes I was transported back to some bygone era. There I was in a dingy, smokey club, strange goats head and tongue images were all around. Brian Jones was there, too. “The Last Time” and “Bitch” were also miraculously playing at the same time. In this haze I got to witness Mick, Keith and the boys at their most rocking and most world-beating.

And because of that I can understand everyone who woo’d to “Brown Sugar” and sung their hearts out to “Satisfaction.” And, frankly, that’s enough.

This review was originally published October 17, 2002 via Chart Communications.

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Samaritan News 10 Pack: Unity Fest, Planned Parenthood Music, Alessia Cara, More

Unity Charity

Unity Charity

Here’s a recent batch of news stories I wrote for the charity ‘n’ entertainment site Samaritanmag:

WATCH: Heineken Worlds Apart Campaign Brings Ideological Opposites Together For Beer

WATCH: All That Remains Recruits Benghazi Veteran for PTSD Awareness Video

Royal Family Use London Marathon to Support Mental Health Charities

Hip Hop-focused Unity Charity Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Björk, Mary J. Blige, Margaret Atwood, More Part of Massive 7-Inch Series For Planned Parenthood

Malala Yousafzai Wants Canadians to Support Education for Girls

Adele, Pearl Jam, Dolly Parton Cover Brandi Carlile To Support War Child

Former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to Speak at Toronto’s Spirit Of Hope

WATCH: Alessia Cara Sing and Hug at Sydney Children’s Hospital

You Could Meet Daniel Craig, Win an Aston Martin by Supporting Landmine Removal

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