Thu, Oct 4
THE HIVES opening for MAROON 5 at the Air Canada Centre. Rating: NNN
It was one thing for the Hives to reassure a house full of adoring fans that they've still got it -- which they did at the Phoenix on Wednesday -- but opening for Maroon 5 at the Air Canada Centre was an altogether different test of the Swedish bashers' mettle.
Trying to get a rise out of a few thousand indifferent teen girls and their moms, who really only wanted to see how hunky Adam Levine looks, proved more difficult than the Hives anticipated.
While a surefire Hives anthem like Walk Idiot Walk would get people out of their seats with fists pumping at most concerts, when the song ended, instead of the foamy-mouthed cheering to which the Hives are accustomed, you could actually hear spilled popcorn hitting concrete.
Perplexed by the lack of reaction, wiry frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist tried explaining to the crowd that they're actually world-famous rock stars worthy of some cheering.
Then he introduced 2000's Hate To Say I Told You So as their "big international super-hit" and proceeded to work up a sweat by twirling through every Peter Zaremba move he knows and jumping off the stage into the crowd, all to negligible reaction.
"I thought I told you," admonished the flustered, out-of-breath Almqvist, "when the song ends, that's when you're supposed to start clapping and screaming!"
Even the simpler, percussion-heavy stomps from their forthcoming Black And White (Universal) album weren't received with any more enthusiasm. After introducing their last song, Almqvist was told their 30-minute opening slot was up. So they dutifully shuffled off, shaking their heads.
Sat, Oct 6
MOKA ONLY/GRAND ANALOG SHOW at the El Mocambo. Rating: NNN
Those who braved the rain got a double dose of dopeness as the Urbnet Records signees, Winnipeg's Odario of Grand Analog and Vancouver's Moka Only, played selections from their rock-solid new CDs, Calligraffiti and Vermilion, respectively.
Odario and his three-piece outfit jumped right into the groove-heavy fury of Grand Analog's dub-hop sound, pulling the audience along wherever they wandered. An almost perfect set of seven songs showcased a balanced range of styles and emotions, from summer love to controlled anger and joyful dancing, and Odario's microphone mastery was impeccable.
Contrast this with Moka's subsequent overdose of flow. Though he was sick with a nasal virus, Moka's musicianship shone through as he combined with DJ Nana and S-Roc (aka Richie Hennessey of Brassmunk) to recreate at least 20 Moka joints from his expansive catalogue.
Even if everyone didn't stay until the last song, Nana's a glorious, note-perfect cover of Moka's Head Over Heels, it provided the sole survivors with a truly happy ending.
Sunday, Oct 7
VAN HALEN with KY-MANI MARLEY at the Air Canada Centre. Rating: NNNN
From the moment Eddie Van Halen, shirtless and wearing army pants and red sneakers, stepped onstage at Sunday's reunion show and began cranking out the first few riffs of the Kinks cover You Really Got Me until his blistering nine-minute solo 90 minutes later, the rock god put on a master class in guitar rock showmanship.
Recently rehabbed and reuniting with flamboyant founding frontman David Lee Roth for the first time since 1984, the lean and fit Van Halen bounded about the stage like a kid on a sugar rush, while the capacity crowd of mostly middle-aged metal fans cheered his every gloriously gratuitous lick.
Naturally, Diamond Dave was not to be outdone. Dressed in a black jacket with gaudy gold embroidery that matched his highlights (obviously a holdover from his ill-fated Vegas days), the clown prince grinned his rictus grin and scissor-kicked his way through a couple of dozen Van Halen classics as though he were still in his 30s. The hair's been tamed, but his dervish-like exuberance hasn't; he teasingly cha-cha-ed on Dance The Night Away and occasionally twirled the mic stand as though battling invisible demons Matrix-style.
Whatever demons kept Eddie and Roth apart until now are clearly gone; the two cozied up to each other several times as they delivered hit after hit. A groovy metal take on Oh, Pretty Woman bled into a monster drum solo by Alex Van Halen that pounded its way back into Unchained before the inevitable encore, Jump.
Ex-bass man Michael Anthony was hardly missed, replaced by Eddie's 16-year-old son, Wolfgang, who demonstrated his virtuosic slap style on songs like Atomic Punk, showing he might one day also deserve a place among rock's deities.