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Archive for the ‘Concert Reviews’ Category

Luminato: Rufus Wainwright Live / Prima Donna

Posted by art On June - 21 - 2010

By Kerry Freek

Rufus Wainwright: All Days are Nights / Songs for Lulu
June 15 and 17 @ Elgin Theatre

Act One:

The sombre face in the picture above should give you a pretty fair indication of how the first act of Wainwright’s one-man show went down. Before the curtain opened, an unidentified man came out, greeted us on Rufus’ behalf, and brought tidings of Wainwright’s requests of us for the next half-hour or so, which included refraining from applause until his imminent “song cycle” had come to a complete end. We’d even have to wait until Wainwright left the stage entirely, as we were told even his exit would be “part of the performance.” Read the rest of this entry »

John Mayer / Michael Franti & Spearhead in Toronto

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On February - 24 - 2010

John Mayer with Michael Franti & Spearhead
At Toronto’s Air Canada Centre,
February 14, 2010

By Sara Starkman

This Valentine’s Day, I got to spend the evening with the two men I love the most: my father, and the very talented, very sexy, John Mayer. Enraptured by the buzz of Toronto’s jam-packed Air Canada Centre, the energy was almost tangible.

Opening band Michael Franti & Spearhead had the entire stadium on their feet as Michael Franti, with guitar and a microphone, made his way through the crowd and personally serenaded audience members along the way. This hip-hop meets funk meets reggae band has been together for ten years, and has just recently cracked the Billboard Top 40. Although it has seemingly been a long and arduous journey for this talented group, rest assured that they will be selling out arenas with countless fans of their own in no time.

The energetic performance of Franti & Spearhead left a magical atmosphere in the arena, and as Mayer walked on stage and asked the audience at large to be his valentine, the magic only grew.

Photo credit: Phil Carpenter / Montreal Gazette

Dressed in a white collared shirt, converse sneakers, and a red tartan plaid vest, Mayer resembled a Palm Spring’s resident on his way to shuffleboard. Old and slow, however, are the last two words to describe John Mayer. Accompanied by a group of worthy musicians, Mayer and company played a selection of songs both old and new. The group also decided to have some fun and perform covers of timeless pieces like McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige. Both songs had every audience member on their feet, in awe of the passion, soul, and flawlessness that came with Mayer’s personal spin of these great songs. His artbitrary outburst of rap improvisation also solidified his quick wit and lyrical aptitude.

Brilliant lyrics and audience rapport aside, Mayer’s musicianship was jaw-dropping. A modern-day Hendrix stood before us on stage, and played with his heart and soul for two and a half hours. He repeatedly paid gracious dues to his talented accompaniment, insisting the sincere honor he felt standing next to each and every musician and vocalist on stage. Needless to say, my date didn’t disappoint, and Valentine’s Day was a huge success.

Review: Red Sky’s Tono: a music concert

Posted by art On January - 23 - 2010

A behind-the-scenes photo from Tono. Wednesday's performance included just the musicians (background, in traditional dress). Photo by Alicia Ho.

Tono: a music concert
Presented by Red Sky
Featuring Tuvshinjargal Damindinjav, Bat-Orshikh Bazarvaani, Batmend Baasankhuu, and Rick Sacks
January 20-21 @ The Music Gallery

By Isla Craig

I am forever captivated and amazed by the similarities and expressions found in folk music traditions. Across land and time and centuries of histories, the power of song prevails, confirming our connection with life and the living world.  As a singer, I am interested in the sound of voice, the body as instrument and find great wonder in the connections forged between continents and across language.

Wednesday night’s performance of traditional Mongolian folk songs was undoubtedly an amazing display of vocal technique of a celestial nature. The voice is the driving force behind the Mongolian folk song, consisting of throat singing and long song. Throat singing sounds like crickets and bees and all sorts of frequencies you would never imagine could be replicated by the human voice. Read the rest of this entry »

The Little Black Dress at the Rivoli

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On January - 10 - 2010

The Little Black Dress live at the Rivoli

By Sara Starkman

A little black dress is every girl’s “must have,” up-to-date item positioned at the front of her closet. It can be dressed up or dressed down, but regardless, it’s a timeless piece, never forgotten. And no matter what, you know it will always look just so damn good. It’s no surprise then, that the band The Little Black Dress chose this to be their name. Opening for another Toronto-based band at Queen Street’s well-known hotspot, the Rivoli, The Little Black Dress stole my ears for an hour in time.

I came in mildly skeptical, as I am of most new bands. Call me a music snob, or a skeptic at large, but regardless, any cynicism I had towards this new band was washed away within minutes. Surrounded by sweater vests, scruffy beards, and studded belts, the crowd had a very upbeat, granola, hipster vibe to it. The warmth that emanated from the venue floated just above the heads of the musicians and audience, who knew almost all of the words to every song played. At first, I was shocked at how large of a following there was. However, it became progressively clearer, as did the amount of talent that The Little Black Dress encompasses. Dan Sadowski, the band’s lead singer, announced at the beginning of the concert that he was feeling somewhat ill, as he proceeded to guzzle a bottle of honey. Even under the weather, though, his voice remained strong: neither guttural, nor nasal, Dan’s voice was audibly delicious, reminding me a lot of Bradley Nowell of Sublime. The songs themselves sounded like a cross between Sublime and Maroon 5. Read the rest of this entry »

Matt Nathanson at the Mod Club

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On August - 18 - 2009

mattBy Sara Starkman

Matt Nathanson is a name that hovers just below the radar of popular music. You may recall his provocative song “Laid,” which was featured on the soundtrack of the classic 2003 comedy, American Wedding. But it’s probably his latest hit, “Come on Get Higher,” that you’re most familiar with. His new album, entitled Some Mad Hope, was three-and-a-half years in the making, and he’s finally back on the road for a North American tour, letting everyone know that he is here to stay.

Nathanson touched down on August 11th at Toronto’s Mod Club, crowded with die-hard fans, and Nathanson — alongside his bandmates — put on an energy-packed performance with enough musical conviction to fill an entire stadium. Read the rest of this entry »

Luminato: Filme und Musik, Ach Meines!

Posted by art On June - 19 - 2009

tony-025Tales of the Uncanny (Unheimliche Geschichten)
Directed by Richard Oswald and starring Conrad Veidt
Featuring live performances by Robert Lippok, Do Make Say Think and Final Fantasy
Part of Luminato
June 11 @ Yonge and Dundas Square

By Helen Fylactou

It was a dark, dreadful and rainy last Thursday night—perhaps the perfect setting for the Canadian premiere (finally—it was made in 1919!) of the silent German film Tales of the Uncanny (Unheimliche Geschichten). Directed by Richard Oswald, the film uses an antiquarian bookstore as the base of five distinct stories, including Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” and Robert Stevenson’s “The Suicide Club.”

Once the bookstore has closed for the night, portraits of Strumpet, Death and the Devil step out of paintings and read stories about themselves for amusement. Four tales are horror stories, and the last story is a comedy involving a fake haunting. Each story has a prevailing weirdness about it, making the stories more unsettling, kind of fun, then scary. In one of his earliest roles, Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Casablanca) fantastically portrays emotion and story through his movements and facial expressions.tony-024

Berlin’s Robert Lippok, and Toronto’s Do Make Say Think and Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) provided the live soundtrack, and I don’t think that the organizers could have picked a better lineup. Lippok’s electronic music is filled with rhythmic beats and spooky, pulsating synth. He has the distinct ability to mash together sounds that ordinarily would not flow with each other, somehow finding their interconnectedness and making them blend in perfect harmony. Lippok’s music creates a sense of tension; perfect as a soundtrack to a horror film.

Keeping with the feel of Lippok’s music, Do Make Say Think combined the improvisational jazz with post-rock. DMST’s mix is genius, but also creates an eerie and uncomfortable feeling for listeners. And to perfectly complete the trio of musicians, Pallett played fluid, natural music. His pizzicato harmonies paid homage to classical music, but still managed to include a contemporary pop-rock vibe. The combination of these three distinct artists and the 1919 horror vibe made it an extraordinary film-watching experience.

A Right-Hand Turn on to Kidstreet, Please

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On May - 15 - 2009

Kidstreet
Kidstreet
Independent, 2007

By Helen FylactouPhoto by Helen Fylactou

Everyone has that one album that helps wake them up in the morning, that helps them withstand their day in the office — or at least the morning commute. For the last year or so, Kidstreet has been a prominent member of my morning music rotation. Their self-titled album is a well-developed dance record, weaving from jazz and rock to new wave and pop. Their sound is innovative and bold, and, unsurprisingly, it pays off: Kidstreet is fresh, loaded with texture, precision, and an energy that brings the audience together on the dance floor.

Kidstreet is a three-piece band from Waterloo, Ontario, comprised of siblings Cliff, Edna, and Karl Snyder. I’ve been a fan of Karl Snyder for a long time, following his music from Stargazer to K-Pet and finally to Kidstreet, where he has far surpassed all of my expectations. His talents as a producer, creator, singer, and drummer show the true commitment to music of an exciting Canadian performer that is, without a doubt, on the verge of super-stardom. “Working with siblings is great and weird,” says Karl Snyder. “The main thing I love about it is the lack of ego. They’re both grounded, kind people who I enjoy spending time with. A band is a lot like a family no matter how you come together.” This special combination definitely works: with her breathy-girly voice, Edna’s distinctive vocal performance is reminiscent of a more upbeat Elizabeth Fraser, and is the perfect accompaniment to Kidstreet’s explosive sound. “Penny Candy” showcases Edna’s sensual and feminine voice, which is framed by Cliff’s mastery of the guitar and keyboards. Always captivating the audience, Cliff Snyder delivers an animated performance.

Photo by Helen FylactouKidstreet’s influences vary from “international superstars to local artists such as Mike Bond from Bocce and Mike Mercey [formerly from The Sourkeys],” giving the band an advantage in reaching an assortment of people. With growing popularity, Kidstreet played at the Mod Club on Saturday night, where they ignited a dancing frenzy throughout the audience. Making it impossible to stand still, Kidstreet’s always bubbly, candy-flavoured attitude is contagious. “BMX Love,” the album’s opening track, is an abrasive electro piece that stole the show, forcing us to clap along with its throbbing pulse and Stereolab-like disco beats. The dance-floor friendly “Disk Mixer 2013″ was also a crowd-pleaser, making use of a children’s toy as an instrument to produce a sound comparable to quirky German duo Stereo Total.

Since forming in 2006, Kidstreet’s buzz has being building steadily, even gaining the attention of the Ford Motor Company of Canada. Recently, Ford licensed Kidstreet’s music and used their song “Song” in a national ad. “Song” — the least poppy-sounding song I’ve heard from Kidstreet — is piano-driven and perfectly orchestrated with strings and drums. With any luck, this exposure will drive Kidstreet more into the mainstream, where they deserve to be.

For upcoming shows, videos, and music check out Kidstreet’s MySpace.

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Throwing Up the White Flag: A New Music Review

Posted by art On May - 8 - 2009

Poems From a Love Triangle
Conceived and composed by Bill Gilliam
Musical direction by Gregory Oh
Stage direction by Anne Anglin
May 2 @ The Music Gallery

By Matt McGeachy

I’m sitting on the hard pews of a church listening to a new music concert meshed together with semi-erotic love poems based on W.R. Rodgers, an Irish poet of the mid-century, wondering what the hell am I doing here.  I’m a theatre critic, I thought, and self-fashioned though I may be, it’s something I think I do pretty well.  But this?  What do I have to critique about this?  It’s something I barely understand and certainly don’t appreciate; the music is chaotic (some would say “challenging”) and the promised acting, in the form of a staged radio drama with new music for which I was ostensibly sitting on the rock hard pew, left much to be desired.  What criticism should I offer, if any?

The practical answer as to why I was there is that fairly frequently I get emails from my editor asking if anyone on staff is interested in reviewing some show or event.  The email for this show came in at a busy time; I scanned it over, saw “erotic” and “staged as a radio drama” and thought, sure, what the hell, should be interesting.  Maybe it’s shite, but isn’t it fun to write about that?!  In short, I didn’t know what to expect and hadn’t closely read the invitation, so when it turned out to be primarily a concert of new music (which I am not particularly qualified to evaluate), new poetry (which I am better qualified to evaluate), and some quasi-operatic singing (which I am qualified to evaluate) I was surprised.

Not in a good way.

At the beginning of this menagerie of artistic expression, I quickly determined that my hopes of a staged radio drama was not in the cards and was irked — at myself, at the composer/conceiver, Bill Gilliam, at the publicist for not putting NEW MUSIC in big capital letters at the top of the flyer (which, it turns out, she did, so I guess I was just pissed at Bill and myself) — and glanced at my watch, antsy for it to be over.  I quickly realized that this would be a long, unpleasant way to spend an hour of my time, so I tried another tactic: surrender to the new art form.  I wouldn’t review the spectacle; instead, I would relay my experience of surrender.

I listened to the music, the voices, the poems very hard and tried to open my mind and soul, as though maybe this would be the night that changed the direction of my life and sent me on a new odyssey of discovery into the world of modern composing.  I closed my eyes to try to feel every note and absorb the sonorous voice of the actor and singer reading poetry.  And I couldn’t feel a damn thing.

Not only that, but after ten minutes passed, I was staring at my watch again, waiting for it to be over.  And although I didn’t have any great revelations about my affection for new music, and although I won’t offer a critical opinion on something I know so little about, I’ll tell you this: the woman next to me was doing the same thing.

Morrissey Live in Buffalo

Posted by music On April - 21 - 2009

p2050750Morrissey
at the New York University at Buffalo Center for the Arts
March 19th, 2009

By John Hastings

I was 16 years old when I started getting into The Smiths. I was way behind the curve, seeing as how Morrissey, Marr, and Co. had all parted ways years earlier, and the mysterious frontman was already several albums into a solo career. But better late than never, I guess. I’ve fallen in love with everything Morrissey’s touched over the years but, until a few weeks ago, had never seen him live. He has a moral objection to the seal-hunting that occurs on Canada’s east coast and so has refused to play in the great white north for the past several years. Somehow he doesn’t object to playing in the United States, the logic of which boggles my mind, but that’s for another article.

When I found out that Moz would be playing Buffalo upon the release of his newest album Years of Refusal, I jumped online and purchased tickets, then got the disc when it came out. Neither disappointed. I rocked Years of Refusal at every opportunity during the weeks leading up to the show, and convinced my wife and two friends to take a day off so we could head across the border in a leisurely fashion.

On the day of the show, we visited a vineyard in Niagara, perused a few antique shops, and gambled at the casino, then crossed the border. Finding pre-show sustenance turned out to be harder than I’d imagined. The concert was held at the beautiful New York University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, which was a dream venue to see someone like Morrissey perform, but there’s very little surrounding the university. In search of a restaurant that wasn’t fast food, we pulled into a gas station; the lady behind the counter wasn’t helpful enough to point us one kilometre down the road to the sports bar we eventually found. (The sports bar had a great variety of beer, many Canadian brands — and they’d won “Best Wings in Buffalo” with their “Crown Royal and BBQ sauce.” The food was the greasiest thing I’ve ever eaten and caused one of my friends to actually vomit in the washroom. The next time I head to Amherst, New York I’ll definitely pack my own dinner.)

Morrissey was flat-out amazing. He opened with the classic “This Charming Man,” the rendition decidedly modern, with guitarist Boz Boorer adding sludge and grind to the song. In terms of other Smiths content, there was a decent version of “How Soon Is Now” and, one of my personal favourites, “Ask.”

By far the highlight of the show was “The Death of a Disco Dancer.” I actually welled up at Morrissey’s low croon, and was so moved by his performance that I’ll say that it has to rank in the top three live show moments for me. Passionate and beautiful, the entire show was riveting and sad, heart-warming and exciting: a perfect blend of the dark, brooding, fervent, and loving style Morrissey so adeptly brings to all of his music. The majority of the show was drawn from his solo discs, mostly from Years of Refusal. The new material was captivating, though I was disappointed not to hear “Mother Lay Softly On the Riverbed,” one of my favourites from the new album. “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” was true to the album version yet still engaging, and Moz really showcased his register on “Something is Squeezing My Skull,” despite having cancelled a number of shows early in the tour due to sickness. “Irish Blood, English Heart” seemed a crowd favourite, and the encore, “First of the Gang to Die,” was a great way to end the show.

Before leaving, my wife — in the great way of someone who loves you — pushed her way to the front of a line and purchased me a signed vinyl version of Years of Refusal, one of only 20 being sold after the show. I plan on having it framed, along with ticket stubs and a couple of great photos we took that day. It was an amazing show, and the highlight of my year so far. I may have been “16, clumsy, and shy” when I first started listening to him, but I think I’ll be a fan of Morrissey until I’m old and grey.

Feist live in Montreal

Posted by MUSIC_Jake On December - 5 - 2008

By Owen Nagels

I first saw Feist in Quebec City at the “Festival d’été du Québec” in the summer of 2006. At the time, I didn’t know much about her: only a few songs off her Let It Die album, and that she was once a member of Broken Social Scene. All I remember from that show was being blown away by her vocal and guitar looping styles and being fixated on her entertaining show.

The following year, I saw her for the second time — this time on a bigger stage with a few more musicians and a much larger crowd. Once again, Feist was buzzing with energy, leaving the crowd — and me — wanting more.

The great thing about seeing an artist perform year after year is that you get to watch them evolve. Feist gets more popular by the nanosecond; I’m pretty sure that every time an iPod commercial airs, she sells another record. Those first two shows were great, but last month in Montreal, she was absolutely fantastic. And Feist has now been upgraded to the Bell Centre — a hockey arena that sounds like a cave but seats a ton of people.

Her 90-minute set included songs from all three of her solo albums: songs from Let It Die and The Reminder that made her famous and lesser known songs from her debut album, Monarch. She opened with an a capella rendition of “Help is on the Way” and, armed once again with her trusty loop machines, she captivated the audience from the very first note.

Not only does Feist sound great, she looks good too. Mesmerizing designs from Montreal shadow puppeteer/finger-painter Clea Minaker were projected onto a huge screen at the back of the stage, producing an art show that complemented the music beautifully and captivated the audience until the very end.

Of course, the usual crowd pleasers were played: “My Moon, My Man” and “I Feel it All” got the room buzzing, especially when she ad libbed about Obama bringing an end to the war in Iraq (his big win was still fresh in our minds during this November 5th concert). She continued on with older hits “Gatekeeper” and “Inside and Out” before slowing it down for “Limit to Your Love” and “Honey Honey.” During these slow tunes, Minaker used her finger painting skills to project an animated thunderstorm onto the screen behind Feist, producing visuals so entrancing I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen to look at the musician I was there to see. For her encore, Feist came back on stage, lifted her feet to display the words “Zut Alors” (Québécois for “dammit!”) taped to the bottom of her boots, and played “Mushaboom” and “How My Heart Behaves.”

And then it was over. The audience left with satisfied smiles, and outside, everyone had only one thing to say: this was one of the best shows they’d ever seen. I can’t say I disagree.

Herman Düne at the El Mocambo

Posted by music On October - 17 - 2008

Herman Düne
and Throw Me The Statue
at the El Mocambo
October 2nd, 2008

By Allana Mayer

Luckily I arrived early enough to snag a seat along the wall of the El Mocambo; the floor was empty, but the benches and chairs filled up quickly. As I surveyed the crowd, I made note of a man wearing a trucker hat, a full beard, a collared plaid shirt, a mismatched tie, a blazer, skinny jeans, and Converses. I have no confirmation on an oversized belt buckle, but my first impression was that he must be the harbinger of the apocalypse. Of course, he later mounted the stage and played 50 minutes of heart-breaking pop songs as lead singer of Herman Düne.

Opener Throw Me The Statue has a diverse sound in recordings, but diverse in the way of bands like Everclear, Coldplay, and Jack Johnson: bands you wouldn’t say sound like each other, but also bands you wouldn’t say sound like much of anything at all. To me they make pop music that’s somewhere between unremarkable and abrasive. And I find that the voice of singer/mastermind Scott Reitherman has about as much energy as Gordon Lightfoot’s when Lightfoot tries to hold a note. Luckily, they sounded nothing like that live. When he took up tom and snare things improved mightily – although his “this music is the lovechild I’m currently giving birth to” face remained off-putting throughout the set. Even so, the “too into it” award goes to the keyboardist, who was also the least useful/occupied performer on stage (is there a “Bez from Happy Mondays” archetype that makes this okay?) He spent a good portion of his time clapping, fist-pumping, and dancing with his mouth agape.

I don’t know if this is an insult, but the El Mo mix was probably at its best for this band – all drums, dull drone vocals, hardly any keys except bass notes. Somehow they became a drum ‘n’ bass pop band, and all their energy actually seemed justified given the powerful percussion and quick tempo. I find them a lot more attractive since they dropped all those extra melodies. Oh, and the vocal harmonies too. They make me think that no band should ever perform their recorded/purchasable material live. (And that the This Is Not A Reading Series will one day take over the world.)

The aforementioned tragedy of hipster style, David Ivar, then climbed on stage with his “brother” Neman (don’t ask me if it’s blood; stage personas are enough for me) — who sported a very admirable Sanchez ’stache, countering his compadre’s rampant offensiveness — and romanced the audience. If nothing else, David’s simple acoustic guitar and Neman’s exuberant drumming impressed upon me how much I should’ve been enjoying myself, given that this band never makes it to Canada. It was definitely a lover’s crowd, and if I wasn’t too busy being achy and hungry and under-caffeinated, I would’ve felt plum out of place.

The cool thing about David Ivar is that he seems like he has the happiest relationship in the world. Almost all of his songs include the phrase “my baby” and are about her telling him that she loves him, or him being on tour and missing her, or how he’ll never sleep with a groupie, or….

In between folky ditties, David Ivar treated us to short anecdotes with little sense, and muttered such inescapably cute, OCD lines as “If you don’t mind waiting just a second, I have to take off my jacket and tie the laces of my shoes.” To be honest, I was just happy they played “Not On Top” (as was most of the crowd, judging by group singalong and rampant cheering) and “Good For No One,” two early tracks that couldn’t have failed them. They also threw out one particularly skillful song, which must be new because I can find absolutely no record of it, with the rough refrain of “In the long run, it was worth a try.” Gorgeous, and I can’t wait to hear a recorded version (help, please, if you know!).

Black Session rarity “You Don’t Know Where I’ve Been” was probably the highlight of the evening, lulling the audience into reverential silence punctuated by a few hushed sighs. And yes, I left before the last song was over, so I can’t actually confirm the occurrence of any large-scale orgies. But the atmosphere was right for it, so why don’t we all just assume it happened?

In Concert: Nick Cave and Black Mountain

Posted by music On October - 14 - 2008

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
with Black Mountain
at the Kool Haus
October 1st, 2008

By Peter Gorman

Having ceded the Polaris Music Prize earlier this week to Dundas, Ontario’s Dan Snaith (aka Caribou) —whose Andorra exhibits a sun-kissed brand of psychedelia that could justly be described as a very distant cousin of the kind that Black Mountain indulges in (think Sabbath and The Zombies Family Reunion — awkward!) — Vancouver’s Black Mountain nevertheless appear to be moving up in the world. No longer opening for the likes of Coldplay, they recently managed to secure a last-minute opening slot at the Kool Haus with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

Knowing full well the kind of adrenaline-fuelled, barn-burning rock’n'roll display they are prefacing, Stephen McBean and his Black Mountaineers keep the showmanship restrained, the guitar pyrotechnics muted, and the stage banter to a minimum. Still, McBean’s turbulent axe-work, Amber Webber’s dulcet, shivering harmonies, and especially Jeremy Schmidt’s precise keyboard work — gossamer synth lines and cozy Mellotron textures — carry a strong, utterly satisfying set. To top it off, they close with In the Future’s seriously epic “Tyrants”, arguably the finest representation of the band’s strengths.

Okay then: time for Nick Cave. No 51-year-old oughta be such a heartthrob — least of all one with a neck-length coif slicked back to reveal a slowly receding hairline, oily handlebars draped over his lip, and thick caterpillar eyebrows, who is dressed head to toe in used-car salesman pinstripes, relentlessly hip-thrusting. But hell, the man knows how to put on a show. And make the ladies swoon.

Yet, not even his most adoring female followers can rest assured that they’d escape Cave’s wrath. Mid-set, upon drying off and tossing his towel back into the crowd, to “Jennifer, the keeper of the towel,” Cave exclaims over his shoulder, “If I find that listed on fucking eBay, I will hunt you down and fucking excoriate you!” (All in jest… but I wouldn’t dare cross Nick Cave, if I were you.)

Anyhow, the Aussie bandleader and his Bad Seeds (seven-strong, altogether), touring behind their wonderful new record, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, are all F-bombs, all night. Not just fucks — though plenty of Cave’s homilies are punctuated by that four-letter word or one of its variations — but fireworks, ferocity, and freakouts. Hell, not to mention facial hair. And speaking of facial hair (and freakouts): Warren Ellis, stage left, is absolutely possessed, alternately seizuring on the floor with his Mandocaster or hacking furiously away at his viola, fiddling while the Bad Seeds burn.

Opening with “Night of the Lotus Eaters” — which takes everything that lurks just below the surface of the album version and channels it into a percussion-heavy (two drumkits!), krautrock-at-half-speed workout — and following with the new record’s gleeful, singalong title-track, the Bad Seeds are, from there on in, unstoppable. Though brusquely dismissing a call for “No Pussy Blues” (Grinderman is made up of about half the Bad Seed fellows), Cave is otherwise thoroughly open to requests, blistering through material old and new: an exhilirating “Red Right Hand”, delicate (murderless) ballad “Love Letter”, a swagger ‘n’ swaying “Ship Song”, a batshit-crazy “We Call Upon the Author to Explain”, and finally, a fiery, lilting “Papa Won`t Leave You, Henry”.

It’s only when the band ultimately returns for an encore that they find time for 2004’s Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus (“from Nick Cave’s deeply religious period,” as the man himself jokes), tearing through “Get Ready for Love” and leading the crowd in a glorious “Lyre of Orpheus” call-and-response (“Oh mama!”). Feeling “completely delirious” (much like everybody else in the room), the Bad Seeds can only handle one more, and make it count with “Stagger Lee”, which is every bit as scrappy and ferocious as anything they’ve played all night.

On the bike ride home, every sorry soul we pass seems lifted straight out of a Nick Cave song, residents of a city where “half the people had turned into squealing pigs / that the other half were cooking”: the kid working late for minimum-wage at the dry cleaner; a pair of lingerie-clad girls freezing their asses off in the upstairs windows of some filthy, half-empty King West dance bar; the homeless man sprawled against the bus stop garbage bin, not quite mad but still fervently, incoherently warbling through “The Star-Spangled Banner”… (Is this what the end of an empire sounds like?)

It’s like the song goes, though tonight it never came: More News from Nowhere. It gets stranger every year.

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MONDO is a non-profit, weekly, Toronto-based, online magazine that focuses on arts, culture, and humour. We’re interested in art of all kinds (music, theatre, visual art, film, comics, and video games) and the pop culture that we inhabit.The copyright on all MONDO magazine content belongs to the author. If you would like to pay them for more content, please do. To contact MONDO please email us at editor@mondomagazine.net

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