Tag Archives: Concerts

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


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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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”

“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”
“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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