Guns n’ Roses
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE with DAN DEACON at the Danforth Music Hall, Tuesday, July 9. Rating: NNNN
Returning to Toronto after their March show was cancelled due to lead singer Avey Tare's "intense case of strep throat," Animal Collective played a set mostly composed of songs from their latest LP, Centipede Hz. After electronic button-masher Dan Deacon churned the crowd into a sweaty mess with his usual shtick of coercive crowd-participatory shenanigans, AnCo took their posts to play non-stop psychedelic noise for just over an hour.
They opened with Comfy In Nautica, a song from vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Panda Bear's solo project. Blissful and eerily cathartic, the song delighted fan girls and boys but surprised (dare I say bored?) concertgoers aching to continue the dance party. Thankfully, selections from Centipede followed, sounding much better live, where the abrasive beats filled the space, with echoey breakdowns between each song. Tare's voice was still recovering, so Lennox took on sole vocal duties, meaning the band couldn't play favourites from their earlier albums.
But fans of AnCo's big hits got their wish at the end, when the band played My Girls and Brother Sport, both from 2009's massively popular Merriweather Post Pavilion.
SOLANGE at the Danforth Music Hall, Saturday, July 13. Rating: NNN
Sometime several months ago it became very cool to love Solange: she has impeccable style; last fall's EP was an irresistible nugget of refreshing pop-soul that spawned one of the coolest videos of the year for Losing You, as well as that song's place on every 18-to-35-year-old woman's dance-party playlist; and her utterly adorable, crouchy dance moves are copied by 20-something hipsters everywhere. On Saturday, even with an impressive mane of Cosby-era-Lisa-Bonet-level braids hanging to mid-thigh, she boogied through her one-hour set, occasionally flicking that hair elegantly behind her.
But for all her natural it-factor magnetism, her live show (her second in Toronto in five months) doesn't really wow. Most of the songs sound better on record; live, Solange's lyrics got somewhat lost, and she relied a little too much on her two backup singers. (Why, I wonder, because when unleashed, her singing voice was incredible.) Still, I've rarely heard so many high-pitched shrieks of appreciation from fans. And when the beat from one of her better tunes would drop - like during her encore, when she performed the delicious 60s Motown-inspired I Decided - you couldn't not love the moment.
GUNS N' ROSES at the Sound Academy, Monday, July 15. Rating: NNN
As the Mark 7.0 lineup of Guns N' Roses shambled onstage on Tuesday to the title track from 2008's Chinese Democracy, I wondered: "Really? Does anyone care about Chinese Democracy?" Then I realized I was singing along and somehow knew all the words.
This is key to understanding why anyone would like Guns N' Roses, or even tolerate singer Axl Rose - the group's only remaining original member and one of music's greatest-ever egoists. These are things you like despite themselves. Because even with the sexism and homophobia and L.A. hair band machismo, Guns N' Roses have released two of the finest rock records ever in Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion.
Backed by what looked like 20 session musicians, Rose worked through a catalogue of Guns N' Roses classics, leaning as much on material from Chinese Democracy as fan favourites like Welcome To The Jungle, It's So Easy and Live And Let Die. Seeing the band without Slash still feels wrong. But GNR is now an Axl Rose road show, a hard rock karaoke box. If you're susceptible to this kind of thing, it's impossible not to burn through widdly-widdly air guitar solos, to clap and smile and nod and pump your stupid fists.
BOB DYLAN with MY MORNING JACKET and WILCO at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Monday, July 15. Rating: NNN
There are no surprises at a Bob Dylan show. A brief look at any of his set lists from his current Americanarama tour made it easy to predict what the legendary 72-year-old was going to play, right down to the single encore (Blowin' In The Wind). His hour-and-a-half set was heavy on material from last year's surprisingly good Tempest, with a handful of rearranged classics (Tangled Up In Blue, All Along The Watchtower), though Dylan's garbled enunciation made it difficult to distinguish songs until he reached the choruses. He seemed spry (even dancing at one point!), but more audience interaction would have been nice.
Luckily, the openers picked up the slack. My Morning Jacket's southern-fried rock was the perfect soundtrack for the late-afternoon heat. Chicago six-piece Wilco proved they're one of the best live rock groups today, with Jeff Tweedy's world-weary lyrics balanced out by Nels Cline's masterful guitar solos. They even brought out special guest Leslie Feist to duet on You & I and a cover of Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, before MMJ returned and they closed out with a raucous version of Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl.