ARCADE FIRE at the Molson Amphitheatre, Friday, August 29. Rating: NNN
From the get-go, Arcade Fire seemed most psyched to play songs off their first record, Funeral, and the crowd responded in kind.
Not that the band ignored their current album, but they mostly (wisely) stuck with the danciest tracks, like Reflektor and Here Comes The Night Time. A few extra percussionists on this tour helped bring those Caribbean-imbued tunes to life and, in general, the 12 total musicians onstage, deftly swapping instruments and configurations, were tight, even if the mix was questionable - and sometimes deafening.
The show was visually impressive - a white stage, white outfits, reflecting disco lights, psychedelic projections - and Win Butler was a compelling frontperson. While Régine Chassagne handled her lead vocal duties capably, Butler sometimes got a little carried away, losing it toward the end of Neighborhood #1. Later, he was so amped for Neighborhood #3 (so were we!) that we could barely pick out the melody. Still, we'd rather he be pumped than perfect.
Intervention felt a little lifeless, and a short version of My Body Is A Cage fell flat. But mostly the band succeeded in turning the amphitheatre into a wacky, loose, fancy dance party. Security finally gave up and let fans fill the aisles for the encore, which included an ode to Ronnie Hawkins (Who Do You Love) and their epic anthem Wake Up.
TOM PETTY at the Air Canada Centre, Tuesday, August 26. Rating: NNN
"We're gonna play as long as we can until they throw us off tonight," said Tom Petty after he and his five Heartbreakers opened with So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star and Mary Jane's Last Dance. "Call your babysitter and tell her you might be late."
Most in his tucked-in-golf-shirt audience are past the point of needing childcare, so maybe he's been using that line for years. The point, though, was that he was going to deliver the hits.
Petty also dutifully played a couple of tunes from his new record. When the sound cut out for most of Forgotten Man, the band was unfazed. It's that comfort and affability - and the stellar catalogue - that make up for the fact that they exert little energy while churning out tastefully embellished, psyched-up classics like I Won't Back Down, Yer So Bad, Into The Great Wide Open and Free Fallin'.
The only missteps - slow, delicate renditions of Rebels and Learning To Fly - were compensated for with rocking hits Refugee and Runnin' Down A Dream late in the set and a lengthy encore (Don't Come Around Here No More, You Wreck Me and American Girl) that made good on Petty's opening promise.
FRESH SNOW, DOOMSQUAD, NORTH AMERICA and PETRA GLYNT at Geary Lane, Friday, August 29. Rating: NNNN
The schedule was already an hour behind when the first performer began on Friday, but that casual approach to set times didn't bother any of the experimental pop fans crowded into quirky DIY venue Geary Lane. The raw warehouse space was decorated with projections shining through smoke-machine fog, reflecting off mirrors attached to roughly made pillars surrounding the instruments set up on the floor. A glowing tent structure took up a good chunk of the middle of the room.
Many were there as much for the event as for any individual musicians. Petra Glynt battled against sound issues as a result of the makeshift stage, but her trance-inducing operatic chanting and pounding drums still made a strong impression. Brooklyn twin-brother guitar/drums duo North America also had feedback problems but seemed happy to ditch the vocals in favour of freewheeling instrumental loop-pedal-assisted improvisations. Doomsquad's mystical ambient electronic music was much more finessed than any of the other acts,' but they seemed to lack energy. Even though Fresh Snow played most of their set hidden from the audience inside their "360 projection pod," their deafeningly loud, psychedelic instrumental noise rock was more than enough to hold the audience's attention.