THE RUSSIAN FUTURISTS at Lee's Palace, December 15. Tickets: $10. Attendance: 200. Rating: NNN
A few hours after British news-paper the Guardian named him Canadian Of The Week, Matthew Hart, aka The Russian Futurists, seemed remarkably calm at Lee's Palace Friday. Maybe he's just getting used to all the attention.The paper's praise, part of a glowing review of Hart's The Method Of Modern Love debut, is in line with the tremendous buzz, particularly in the UK, surrounding the London, Ontario, singer/songwriter's no-budget pop tinkling. While his profile is practically nonexistent at home, the one-man band has become a minor celebrity overseas.
At Lee's, Hart was first up on Teenage USA's jam-packed Christmas party bill, initially struggling to make himself heard over the holiday chit-chat. While Hart does everything himself on record, live he's blown the Futurists into a full band, or four guys sitting behind table-top keyboards.
Hart set up sparse drum loops and then sat with his eyes closed and hands in his lap, singing perfect pop songs while his bandmates played blooping synth parts and occasionally strummed on a solitary guitar. At times, the ultra-minimalist music seemed barely there, not much more than a drifting melody.
It was decidedly understated, but it also wasn't missing anything, and by the second or third song, the crowd began to pay close attention.
They must have been drawn by the music, because there wasn't much to look at onstage beyond Hart's bandmates shifting chairs every song or two. A film or some facial expressions might be nice, but the Futurists' live experience is just getting started. Give them time.