David Byrne and St. Vincent.
DAVID BYRNE & ST. VINCENT at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Thursday, September 20. Rating: NNNN
Watching David Byrne and St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) onstage together is a bit like witnessing the passing of a baton from an elder statesman of art rock to one of the brightest lights in the next generation of quirky pop geniuses.
Even though they split vocal duties fairly evenly, and despite the fact that much of the crowd was clearly there to see Byrne, Clark consistently stole the show. Since she was the only person onstage not dressed in black and white, it often looked like Byrne was merely the leader of her backing band.
The large ensemble of brass players provided off-kilter choreography. Clark often went for a broken robot vibe in her movements and seemed comfortable with the theatrical elements of the production. While she's a strong performer on her own, in this context it became clear that she's ready to command huge stages as her profile grows.
LAETITIA SADIER at the Drake Underground, Tuesday, September 18. Rating: NNNN
Laetitia Sadier is charming. Dressed casually and with her hair pulled back, the voice of Stereolab didn't try to dazzle us with glamour. Instead, she wooed us by welcoming us into her "living room," referring to the Drake's couch-lined, intimate space. Most songs got brief descriptions, including Silent Spot from new album Silencio; at that point she spoke about her views on death following the passing of those close to her, especially Broadcast's Trish Keenan.
Although Sadier smiled and joked throughout the set (at one particularly endearing moment, after a bit of cacophony on the guitar, she approached the mic and quietly said, "Sonic Youth"), she also played some of her most political solo material, like the brilliant Auscultation To The Nation.
Sadier's music doesn't envelop the room in the same way her old band's could, but even at a low volume she had us rapt.
LIL B at the Phoenix, Thursday, September 20. Rating: NNN
A Lil B show in Toronto has been a long time coming. The internet rap darling's been on a release rampage for well over two years, steadily supplying his web-savvy following with meme fodder while confounding critics and outsiders. This year's seen a new mixtape every month - sometimes more than one - further polarizing observers, since, as Margaret Wente should perhaps attest, things can get a bit sloppy when you're constantly producing content.
Lil B in the flesh is not so much about the music as he is about the Based God himself. (Don't get it twisted, though - some knew all the words.) He rapped without pause as a succession of kids in skinny jeans and polos clambered onstage to heave themselves at him. Some cheesed for cameras, some struggled with the poor security guards, one girl grabbed B's face, pursed her lips and homed in before he gently turned her aside.
A breathless and breathtaking performer, he criss-crossed the stage, light glinting from his shades and grill. His success is clearly predicated on participation: letting his fans live the meme.
YACHT CLUB with BRUSQUE TWINS at the River Gambler, Sunday, September 23. Rating: NNNN
This sweater-weather boat cruise organized by burgeoning Toronto imprint Pretty Pretty Records and Dan Burke was a fitting debut for Yacht Club, the latest project by prolific Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook.
After a quick sprinkling of rain, the River Gambler, an old boat moored at the foot of Parliament, left port for a picturesque afternoon along the city's edge. The show took place below deck (there had been plans to have two stages, but conditions topside proved too cold and windy) and opened with Montreal minimal noir duo Brusque Twins, who'd just got off an early-morning Megabus following their set at Pop Montreal. Their swells of searing, slo-mo synths and dreamlike vocals mesmerized.
The highlight came when Yacht Club unfurled an upbeat party-starter set that featured infectious new single Flash, a feel-good slice of bouncy 80s pop that'll jangle around in your head for days. Their easy-breezy style is far from Cook's hardcore roots but sounds like his most promising side project to date.