WISCONSIN at the Rivoli, January 26. Tickets: $5. Attendance: 120. Rating: NN
success in rock and roll is such a crap shoot. We all know that raw talent isn't necessarily a factor. Neither is timing, good management or gonzo record deals, though a burning self-destructive streak can be a step in the right direction. So why not play a club show to an obvious bunch of your friends as if you were slaughtering at Roskilde?
If that was the prevailing wisdom behind the grand spectacle of Toronto five-piece Wisconsin's show Friday at the Rivoli, then god bless 'em. When and if fame comes knocking, they'll be ready for their close-ups.
It's probably safe to assume that non-friends wouldn't be as eager or able to sing along on the command of Ritalin-kid frontman David Young, who thrust his mike toward the dance floor with the gusto of a longhair scorching Knebworth. Sadly, though, his appeal for overhead hand claps didn't yield similar results.
But the band seemed to be having a blast cranking out melodic, serviceable pop/rock that quoted their American Graffiti EP and spotlighted their harmonies. Smiles go a long way toward caressing a crowd. And the quintet -- Young, guitarist/vocalist Ernie Meggison, bassist/vocalist Chris Amey, guitarist/vocalist Jeff Melick and drummer Rob Chowhan -- gave generously, none more so than Young, who politely left the stage when Amey stepped up to sing lead on a song. It wasn't for a costume change.
There were drab bits -- their stuff isn't wildly original, and a samey-sounding blanket draped them mid-set. But the "aren't we just the bees knees?" attitude, not to mention their flashy press kit, which suggests someone in or close to the band works in design or printing, was spot on and, one assumes, tongue-in-cheek.
Just imagine the fireworks when Wisconsin eventually headline an enormodome like Lee's Palace. KH