CHOCLAIR, BRUCE COCKBURN, THE BARENAKED LADIES, OUR LADY PEACE, ALANIS MORISSETTE and the TRAGICALLY HIP performing as part of Music Without Borders at the Air Canada Centre, October 21. Tickets: $35. Attendance: 18,000. Rating: NNNN
since it followed hot on the heels of Saturday's concert in NYC, it was hard not to compare the Music Without Borders fundraiser to the star-studded stateside benefit. But as the Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page emphasized at the preceding press conference, this was an event of a very different colour.Not just because flag-waving wasn't the focus or because the money was going across the ocean (all proceeds went to humanitarian aid in Afghanistan), but also because the participants left their personalities behind and funnelled their political passion into the music.
Blink and you would've missed opener Choclair's quickie set. He was on and off the stage so fast he didn't even have time to build up the vibe, leaving the crowd tepid.
Good ol' boy Bruce Cockburn was at the mercy of the Air Canada Centre's abysmal acoustics. The high point of the folkster's set came when Page joined Cockburn for a stirring duet on Lovers In A Dangerous Time.
It was Page's own band who served up the high-energy set that got the crowd (including famous fan Jason Priestley) going. Geeky twin frontmen Page and Ed Robertson got into split-leg rockstar kicks, flying leaps and -- at one particularly memorable moment -- had thousands on their feet doing the chicken dance.
By contrast, deadpan rockers Our Lady Peace took themselves way too seriously, playing a set that focused on Raine Maida looking pretty while he did the Robot in his cozy winter jacket. To his credit, Maida made a point of promoting the War Child charity and Web site -- a recipient of some of the show's funds.
Since we last heard from supposed former infatuation junkie Alanis Morissette, she's been working on her vocals -- the grating nasal whininess is much tempered. Morissette's dropped the bitter girl thing, but has held onto the tics -- headbanging behind a curtain of hair, the whirling dervish bit -- that make her live show fascinating to watch.
For most viewers, however, the real draw of the evening was the Tragically Hip. Though I don't quite get the mythical status the Hip hold in the eyes of their rabid fans, Gord Downie and company played a killer set of faves with panache.
Saving the world with their songs, indeed.