LOVAGE with METRIC at the Phoenix, January 15. Tickets: $22.50. Attendance: 700. Rating: NNNN
expectations weren't particu-larly high for the Toronto debut of Dan "the Automator" Nakamura's latest high-concept hiphop project.At last year's awkward, non-interactive performance by Nakamura's Deltron 3030 collective, each member of the group seemed to be putting on his own show rather than working together. You had to question if the San Francisco DJ's habit of throwing together different people for a laugh was better kept to the studio than presented live. Tuesday's set by Nakamura's new Lovage project showed that the man knows precisely what he's doing.
The self-described "public service announcement for lovers" began with a screening of trailers for the soft-core porn of Young Lady Chatterley before Nakamura, turntablist Kid Koala, Elysian Fields singer Jennifer Charles and Faith No More/Fantômas frontman Mike Patton slid onto the stage and into the downtempo hiphop/soul of Lovage's Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By album. An air of elegance was everywhere, with Koala in his pyjamas and Nakamura and Patton swanning about in silk bathrobes.
Backed by a guitarist and bassist while Koala cut beats in the background, the group's loping grooves were as live as possible. Although Charles provided the sex appeal with her skin-tight silver suit, Patton was the real revelation. As Nakamura lounged behind his iBook smoking cigars, drinking champagne and offering chocolate-covered cherries to the crowd, the notoriously volatile singer crooned like Scott Walker and put in a spot-on impersonation of Jennifer Lopez during a straight-up cover of J. Lo's I'm Real.
Patton also played ringmaster, keeping the set moving with perfect pacing. As Lovage's concept began to sag and the songs disappeared, the group had the sense to break things up, clearing the stage for Koala's frantic solo routines and finally bringing up members of the crowd to ride the group's thong-clad guitarist across the stage and whip him with a riding crop.
The question now is whether Nakamura can pull off anything this compelling when he returns February 23 with his Gorillaz project.