Bettie Serveert with Walkers Line and Human Deluxe at the Horseshoe, February 10. Tickets: $12 Attendance: 250 Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Memories of a time ruled by fan-zines and CFNY's Free At Last compilations coaxed a ton of Toronto 30-somethings out of their workweek hibernation last Thursday to see their beloved Matador college radio pioneers Bettie Serveert (Dutch for "Bettie serves").
Wide-eyed and revved, most of the crowd looked as though they hadn't been to a show since the Dutch troupe last hit town nine years ago. But credit these diehard fans for keeping Bettie's floundering career alive.
Like their fanbase, Bettie have come a long way since the early 90s, though the changes aren't necessarily always for the better. As they kicked off the set with Dreamaniacs, off their recent album Attagirl, their latest attempts at loungey electro-pop - a far cry from the sugary grit of their indie rock debut, Palomine - sounded misguided and shaky.
Adding samples, loops and break beats behind their gritty guitar pop didn't make the sound any less confusing. At the core, their songs are strong, but they were trying a little to hard to be something they aren't.
Even with guitarist Peter Visser claiming, "Zis iz a dance sonnng" about a tune that clearly wasn't, the crew couldn't convince us they knew which direction they were taking. BS don't seem to find confidence and comfort in a genre, as they played everything from punk to an epic, psychedelic anthem, Hands Off.
However, these risky endeavours have really paid off when it comes to singer Carol Van Dijk . Clearly, the college radio sound was holding back some stellar vocals. This girl can belt out anything the band throws at her. With her Chrissie Hynde prowess and confidence, she carried the band, making the other letdowns easier to take.
Even their cover of Bright Eyes' Lover I Don't Have To Love was endearing and unpretentious. I love that they can give props, as fans, to a contemporary band rather than overshooting with typical Springsteen covers. To top the night off, the crowd went wild when Bettie played their early pure-pop goody Kid's Allright, and most of the screamers probably considered calling in sick the next morning.