Destroyer with Matthew Barber at the Horseshoe Tavern, July 18. Tickets: $8.50. Attendance: 200 Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
He was the dreamy cover model on last week's issue of NOW, but Matthew Barber might not have quite the sonic capabilities or the stage presence to capture a room the size of the Horseshoe Tavern . At times he and bass player Julian Brown were almost impossible to hear above the din of totally disrespectful yammering coming from Friday's crowd. (They did halt their conversations long enough to applaud at the end of each number, though.)
"He's really cute in a non-threatening kind of way," loudly observed a woman at the table behind me who hadn't stopped yakking for one minute. I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that, I thought to myself, but I'll bet he'd rather you shut the fuck up and listened.
Still, Barber rolled gamely through a set of lovely low-key tunes on sensitive indie-boy themes, and I thought it would be nice to see (and hear) him play a smaller room. His songs are at times magnificently constructed, and his lyrics, from what I could hear, can be quite clever.
It seemed most of the crowd was there to see Barber, even if they didn't pay him any attention, since the audience thinned considerably for Destroyer 's set.
Vancouver's Dan Bejar took the stage alone, guitar in hand, apologizing for not having the band with him - though apparently the last time he played Toronto he was also sans band.
During the first couple of tunes, I thought, "Wow! This guy is great!" He looks like Bob Dylan or maybe Abbie Hoffman (you know, that receding-hairline-curly-dark-haired-scruffy look) and sounds like a modern-day indie rock version of early Bowie, but with less outer-spaciness.
Fabulous Ziggy Stardust-style phrasing and inflections. Wonderful kooky poetic lyrics. Zowie!
But by the fourth and fifth tunes I'd begun to think, "Geez, this song sounds a lot like the one he played before, and that one sounded like the one before that." The tempo didn't waver throughout, and everything had the same early-Bowie Barnum-and-Bailey blues vocal sensibility.
The Bowie swells and crescendos kept repeating. The strumming build-up to the bridge - think Suffragette City, Space Oddity, Moonage Daydream - was omnipresent. By around the eighth tune I was tired of it all.
Bejar has a fine lyrical style, but musically he's a one-trick pony.