Andria Simone at Woodbine Park, July 19.
ANDRIA SIMONE at Woodbine Park, Saturday, July 19. Rating: NNN
The first Saturday of the Beaches International Jazz Festival was very wet. But Torontonians are good sports. For Andria Simone's 3 pm show, music lovers crammed in under the beer garden tents, and a smattering of umbrellas dotted the field.
Simone and her five-piece band, Those Guys - proficient and never overpowering - play crowd-pleasing retro soul that suited the outdoor vibe. But I couldn't help wishing I was seeing them in a sweaty club.
The T.O.-born-and-bred singer was dryly funny and attempted to coerce spectators out of their chairs, but the weather and the fenced-off gap between the stage and crowd initially kept a real connection from being made.
Simone's rich, powerful pipes are raspier, grittier and more rock 'n' roll live than on her polished latest album, Good Lovin'. They lent themselves well to the set's varied genres: a cover of Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love, a reggae tune, Stevie Wonder's Super stition.
KATY PERRY at the Air Canada Centre, Friday, July 18. Rating: NNN
There was something very Khaleesi about the way Katy Perry commanded the stage during opening song Roar, male-slave-type backup dancers trailing behind her in all their futuristic, neon glory. That "I am woman!" theme continued when she changed into a Cleopatra outfit and rode out on a giant horse - powered by a few of her Unsullied - for Dark Horse, E.T. and Kissed A Girl.
Powerful stuff for 15,000 tweens. So it was a shame that every time she spoke, it was in a patronizing baby voice. "Could you guys just be here with me for the next two hours? Promise?"
It was sometimes hard to hear Perry's vocals, drowned out by her band and/or the ACC's sound system. Otherwise, her live singing was pretty good - although helped a lot by backing tracks.
It was a great spectacle. One could argue that all the bells and whistles - a Cirque du Soleil sideshow was basically happening at all times - are necessary when the songs are cookie-cutter pop. Still, maybe it's just the eye glitter, but Perry is dazzling to behold. She's got moxie.
GRIMES, ACTION BRONSON, KAYTRANADA, ST. LUCIA, SMITH WESTERNS, JON HOPKINS and more as part of TIME FESTIVAL at Fort York Garrison Common, Saturday, July 19. Rating: NNN
Fate was not kind to this year's Time Festival, which returned to Toronto after a three-year break. First Death Grips broke up, then Charli XCX rescheduled her tour, and then Mother Nature decided to dump rain on the outdoor event all day, dampening the mood. Security made things worse by initially refusing to allow people to bring umbrellas in, but thankfully reversed that policy later on. Despite all that, the indie rock and electronic festival drew a decent crowd.
The eclectic programming was the event's strength but also its weakness. Smith Westerns' laid-back guitar pop didn't fit very well between Jon Hopkins's melodic techno and Kaytranada's warped R&B experiments. On the other hand, St. Lucia's 80s-influenced soft rock somehow made sense next to Action Bronson's crowd-pleasing set of grimy rap. Grimes's headlining slot was the clear highlight, and her live show has become much less shambolic than it used to be.
LONG SHEN DAO at Woodbine Park, Sunday, July 20. Rating: NNN
All the way from Beijing (a first for the Beaches Jazz Festival), Chinese reggae giants Long Shen Dao landed the headlining spot Sunday.
The five-piece opened with an impressive psychedelic, Eastern-imbued jam that morphed into a dubby reggae song, making the band sound like a cross between Fat Freddy's Drop and traditional Chinese music. The latter is thanks to the guzheng (zither), which has a plucked, harp-like sound we often associate with East Asian music.
Singing in Mandarin, Long Shen Dao showed a penchant for rock as well as Bob Marley-like laid-back reggae, finishing each tune with a "Thank you - xiexie."
The guzheng songs were by far the most interesting. Less so were the Cantopop-meets-Magic! numbers that were more upbeat but a little twee.
Also, it was strange having tunes that relied so much on cued-up horns without an actual horn section.
The Beaches International Jazz Festival runs to Sunday (July 27).