Asteroids Galaxy Tour at the Hoxton, Monday, February 6.
ASTEROIDS GALAXY TOUR at the Hoxton, Monday, February 6. Rating: NNN
The crowd at the Hoxton made it tough to pin down exactly what the Asteroids Galaxy Tour's target demographic is. Their fans span a huge age range and seem evenly split between hipsters and the un-hip, testament to the accessibility of their electro-tinged lounge sound. While the lounge aspects would feel familiar to anyone alive in the 50s, occasional futuristic synth lines keep things just modern enough to have more than retro appeal.
Unfortunately, as became obvious during this full live show, they've got a very small handful of tricks to draw on. Singer Mette Lindberg has the looks and onstage charisma to entertain, but lacks the range and technique to truly thrill. And while the songs are uniformly fun, not much is going on beyond that, and the underlying goofiness makes it hard to get passionate about them. Good times, but never approaching great.
THE DARKNESS at the Phoenix, Wednesday, February 1. Rating: NNN
After a brief stumble on their march toward the holy hills of rock glory, the Darkness have regained their footing.
The British four-piece hit it big around 2004 thanks to Permission To Land's I Believe In A Thing Called Love, the monster hit that closed Wednesday's gig. But a subpar second album and a stint in rehab for singer Justin Hawkins caused the lights to go out on the band.
At the Phoenix, though, Darkness faithful pointed stageward with every pound of the kick drum during opener Black Shuck, while a svelte and tattooed Hawkins hit his incredibly high falsettos, jumped, ran and pranced.
New song Nothing's Gonna Stop Us keeps alive their fixation on Queen and other 70s rock royals. Everybody's Having A Good Time, meanwhile, has a long AC/DC-style breakdown that gave Hawkins time to change into a unitard. The sight of him in a pleather onesie invigorated the waning crowd just in time for I Believe, which hits like a hammer of the gods.
BASIC SOUL UNIT at the Rivoli, Thursday, February 2. Rating: NNN
Toronto dance music has been blowing up internationally, yet we tend to take that local talent for granted. Basic Soul Unit (aka Stuart Li) has been DJing his melodic techno and house sounds all over the world and releasing tracks on respected labels, but in Toronto he still draws much bigger numbers playing funk, soul and jazz with the Footprints crew as his alter ego, DJ Stuart.
It was disheartening to see the Rivoli just half-full for his debut electronic show as Basic Soul Unit, but the heads who did come out were ready to get down. Live sets rarely have the same energy as good DJ sets, but Li's first attempt showed lots of promise. He favours classy over flashy, which may not always have an immediate impact but offers something substantial and rich to immerse yourself in - exactly what DJs should aim for when showcasing their own productions live.
JUNO CONCERT SERIES featuring THE ELWINS, THE SADIES, HIP HOP KARAOKE and others at the Horseshoe, Saturday, February 4. Rating: NNNN
Previous instalments of the Juno Concert Series celebrated individual decades of Canrock, but this version split the night into three genres, allowing the collected performers to cover a greater stylistic range.
Affable youngsters the Elwins played backing band for the rockin' first set, admirably and gleefully delivering songs by Chilliwack, Anne Murray and the Constantines alongside members of Sloan, Rural Alberta Advantage, Ohbijou and Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning, who nailed the falsetto on a faithful rendition of Remy Shand's Take A Message.
Following a punk rock slide show of photographs by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet's Don Pyle, de facto Toronto house band the Sadies stepped out of their country-western comfort zone to take over the Canpunk set. Modern hardcore legends Chris Colohan and omnipresent Damian Abraham gave the Sadies a chance to show off their punk chops.
The final set came from the folks behind Hip Hop Karaoke, which, despite its moniker, boasts a handful of regular performers who are anything but amateurs and held their own against the legends in attendance: Choclair, Michie Mee and D-Sisive.