Shows that rocked Toronto last week


Wed, Dec 2

FRIENDLY FIRES, THE XX at the Phoenix Rating: NNNN

Friendly Fires and The xx have a lot in common. Both pop bands borrow from dance music, both have been fawned over by the UK music press, and both subtly integrate electronic elements into their live shows. But experiencing the two in concert together is an exercise in contrasts.

The xx are minimal on record, and even more so live. Instead of using electronics to fill in the bits they can’t play by hand, their electronics whiz, Jamie Smith, uses his sampler like a miniature drum kit, tapping out beats in real time with his fingers. Singer/guitarist Romy Madley Croft and singer/bassist Oliver Sim seem determined to play as few notes as possible while barely moving. Still, their perfect little pop songs, written to make the most of their limited playing abilities, sounded pristine and gorgeous.

Friendly Fires provided some welcome relief from the tension artfully built up by The xx. If The xx went small, Friendly Fires went huge. Their show included a big band (with horn section), sequenced backing tracks and lots of jumping and sweating. Compared to their opening act, the upbeat dance pop came across as a bit shallow but still undeniably entertaining.


Fri, Dec 4

PRINCE PAUL at the Drake Underground Rating: NN

Prince Paul played an enjoyable but predictable set at the Drake Underground that didn’t quite live up to the hype. The Stetsasonic alumnus and A-list producer (De La Soul, 3rd Bass, Handsome Boy Modeling School) catered to the average partygoer by including hits like Onyx’s Slam, A Tribe Called Quest’s Scenario and Black Sheep’s The Choice Is Yours. But he also snuck in a few gems by Diamond D and Pete Rock.

Even though he kicked things off with a monologue that outlined the chronological route in which he planned to take the set, he quickly deviated from it, jumping back and forth between decades. This wasn’t a bad thing, just odd considering his stated concept. Paul is much more of a producer than a DJ, evidenced by the fact that almost all of his selections were slammed together rather than beat-matched and blended. His strong hype-man skills shifted focus away from the sometimes awkward transitions.


Sat, Dec 5

THE HIDDEN CAMERAS at the Opera House Rating: NNNN

It was the final night of the Hidden Cameras’ 32-city North American tour, but the gigantic band seemed neither fatigued nor unenthusiastic. Instead, while frontman Joel Gibb delivered tunes from their new Origin:Orphan album in his rich baritone, the other members hopped and sang around him, while glock player/keyboardist Maggie MacDonald led the packed Opera House in choreographed dance moves. A 12-person choir dressed in ghost sheets with the eyes cut out hovered comically on rafters.

Gentleman Reg rocks out at the Opera House Saturday.

Nic Pouliot

Spectacle is what we’ve come to expect from Toronto’s gay church folk band, yet the costumes, dance moves, white-wigged girls waving white flags and guest vocals by opener Gentleman Reg never overshadowed the impeccably executed and orchestrated music, which was joyous and driving but took a quieter, sombre turn midway through the set. Things picked up again near the end, with uplifting versions of AWOO and In The NA. A cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella during the encore got everybody crazy.


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