REMY SHAND at the Phoenix, August 22. Tickets: $25. Attendance: 900. Rating: NN
The Shaggy-haired, sheepish figure in a patchwork denim jacket and black toque scurrying backstage from the Phoenix's VIP room around 9:45 last Thursday night looked a lot more like a dorky indie rock dude than the godfather-in-waiting of nu-soul. That's the thing about Remy Shand. He's the most unlikely Motown superhero. A whiteboy crooner from Winnipeg with a sexy name who studied his parents' old LPs, Shand's got the funk-soul formula down pat.
Formula is the key word. His recent The Way I Feel disc may have propelled him into the spotlight, but Shand's just drawing on an established vocabulary. His tunes are like a Xerox version of old-skool originals, carbon-copy Motown music. This new dog's all about the old tricks.
The audience was a strange mix for an evening at the Phoenix: middle-aged moms and pops wearing leather pants, clubby Eurotrash dudes and their trophy dates and patchouli-scented funk-lovin' hippies. To his credit, the crooner met their cheers with a shy grin and electric energy.
Shand catapulted from one keyboard to another, leaping up from his stool to strap on a guitar and bust noodly wah-wah riffs -- sometimes in the middle of a tune.
The funk guitars and and blues-rock guitar solo on Liberate were great, but the keyboards on The Way I Feel sounded like they'd been lifted from the trolley theme song on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, layered over "I wanna get witchu baby" grooves and over-the-top falsetto vocals.
It was amusing to watch Shand's frenetic manoeuvring, but the idiotic Axl-style guitar god faces have got to go. It seemed like half his act was frontin' like a rawk-star-slash-soul-impresario, squinting and pursing his lips.
Instead of practising his game face, Shand should think about working on some songwriting skills. The set was a solid hour of danceable sameness. He's got some bo-o-o-ring lyrics. I mean, it's true that most of the old-school shit is all about "Baby, baby," but still "The way I feel / Is just the way I feel"? Puh-leeze.
He's got the funked-up style, but until he masters the art of writing an original melody, Shand's doomed to bland fourth-rate-Al-Green status.