LANA DEL REY at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, Wednesday, November 30. Rating: NNN
There was something voyeuristic about the crowd at the Toronto debut of Lana del Rey, the New York singer/songwriter whose popularity has exploded thanks to her melancholic pop single Video Games and an ongoing online debate over her authenticity.
Judging by the chatter that persisted throughout her 40-minute set, it's clear del Rey's fans are big talkers online and off. Also apparent is the fact that she's new to performing for large audiences. Her stage banter was hurried and nervous, she apologized for not giving her all during one number and seemed reluctant to return for an encore. When she did, she performed older song Diet Mtn Dew.
"Listen, I really haven't done this song live," she said, "but my sets are so fucking short, I'm just gonna try it. If you judge me, I'll kill you!"
Charming, affable and eager to please, del Rey was most captivating, during soaring opener Without You and the lilting, husky Video Games, but sometimes lost the crowd with more generic-sounding R&B songs like You Can Be The Boss.
FEIST at Massey Hall, Thursday, December 1. Rating: NNNN
Making a sold-out Massey Hall feel like a small club requires a special touch, which is exactly what Leslie Feist demonstrated at her homecoming show.
Her onstage demeanour was often goofy, and she had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Early in the set, a few dozen fans jumped onstage to dance alongside the band, and instead of allowing security to clear them off, the down-to-earth folk-pop superstar suggested they "grab some wood" and sit down, which they obediently did, remaining there till the end and occasionally rising to their feet for the faster songs.
There was real magic in the constant interactions between Feist and the audience, especially the guy who looked like Santa Claus in tie-dye, who provoked the impromptu interpretive dance contest that led to the stage invasion.
The set list was Metals-focused, and older songs were often drastically reworked to fit the new album's dark and heavy mood. Nobody seemed to mind the absence of her iPod commercial hit, 1234.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH at the Sound Academy, Friday, December 2. Rating: NNNN
"I'm so fuckin' amped right now, Toronto," Ghostface Killah told the crowd at Sound Academy. Given the electricity in the room, it didn't need to be said. It's been at least 15 years since the legendary Wu-Tang Clan co-founder made it over the border, and he made sure he didn't waste the opportunity.
The 41-year-old rapper cycled through hits from his solo albums, collaborations and Wu-Tang classics, and no matter how deep he reached, the Wu faithful fed the energy back, a fact aptly demonstrated when he brought up a couple of fans to spit a few flawless verses.
As the show crept past the 1 am curfew, Ghostface showed no signs of stopping, even "previewing" some of the songs he might play next time, an exercise that bought him at least another 15 minutes. The crowd certainly didn't mind. After all, it could be another 15 years before he graces a Toronto stage again.
ELL V GORE and SOUPCANS at Soybomb HQ, Saturday, December 3. Rating: NNN
When Wavelength announced last February that it was discontinuing its weekly showcases, it seemed likely that the influential indie institution would gradually fade away. But the lack of a consistent home has allowed it to expand its brand and audience, as evidenced by this noisy garage-rock bill assembled by junior programmers at Soybomb, a charmingly ramshackle DIY space.
The bands played in the middle of a skate ramp in what appeared to be someone's apartment, giving the event the feel of a party rather than a concert, which isn't a bad thing. Both headlining acts mix avant-garde post-punk noise and elements of hardcore with back-to-basics rock 'n' roll, with very different results. In this setting, Soupcans' more aggressive attitude elicited a rowdier response, though the woozy sonic atmospherics of Ell V Gore showed greater promise. Looks like Wavelength is successfully moving into its second life.