Fri, Mar 23
SEBADOH at Lee's Palace
Either his recent Dinosaur Jr. reunion jaunt's made Lou Barlow into a seasoned ego-swallowing vet or his original, reunited Sebadoh crew seriously shares a crazy chemistry that time and petty squabbles can't tarnish.
While a thick fug of testosterone clouded the air at Lee's , Barlow and Eric Gaffney traded off on lead vocal and guitar duties, occasionally letting Jason Loewenstein sneak into the spotlight to play frontman. They marched through a semi-chronological overview of the Sebadoh catalogue, balancing distorted basement-rock classics from their recently reissued III disc with Barlow's trademark Bakesale-era beautifully hapless ballads. Even more remarkable than the hilarious cover of Tom Petty's Free Fallin' that closed the pre-encore show was the fact that the tunes sounded fresher than the bulk of shit offered up by contemporary rock bands.
HOODOO GURUS at the Horseshoe
The Hoodoo Gurus ' return to Canada for their first Toronto appearance in 13 years should've been a cakewalk. Greeted at the Horseshoe by a sizable liquored-up crowd of giddy Gurus faithful, the Aussie garage pop foursome just had to knock out their biggest near-misses from the 80s and they would've been carried off the stage like conquering heroes.
But instead of simply reminding everyone why they first fell in love with Gurus, they decided to educate the audience about the albums they missed - from 94's Crank onwards - at a volume suitable for stadiums.
"How many of you have heard our Mach Schau album from 2004?" singer Dave Faulkner asked hopefully, to which three people sheepishly raised their hands and two others hooted. "Um, that's, er, amazing," nodded Faulkner before launching into When You Get To California. Those who didn't want to wait another hour to hear the set-ending punch of What's My Scene and Like Wow, Wipeout could be seen heading for the exit.
Sat, Mar 24
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY at the Opera House
There aren't too many instrumental groups out there with enough draw to sell out two nights at the Opera House . But Austin-based Explosions in the Sky appear to have an incredibly strong fan base in Toronto, judging by the devoted and enthralled group attending Saturday's gig.
The four-piece specialize in creating an atmosphere with compositions that swell rhapsodically, shrink to their minimalist origins, then slowly see-saw back into crescendos. It's formulaic and consistent, but they avoid predictable results mostly because of the duelling guitars of Munaf Rayani and Mark Smith , who have a tendency to accelerate notes, pick up speed, then brake hard until the song swerves off the road and plunges into a sea of reverb, echo and gentle feedback.
Sun, Mar 25
CHRISTINA AGUILERA at the Air Canada Centre
For much of her career, Christina Aguilera has been compared to Britney Spears. Recently, the differences between the two have become strikingly apparent, and X-Tina's clearly adjusting to life after teen-queendom much more gracefully.
Granted, much of Aguilera's current image is still superficial (referring to old-fashioned R&B doesn't actually mean you're mature), but the fact that she's interested in crafting some kind of musical identity and has the lungs to pull it off puts her head and shoulders above her superstar competitor.
Backed by a large band and a troop of dancers, she reworked much of her back catalogue in the style of her current disc, Back To Basics, trading synth riffs for horn sections and glitz for grit. A running theme was class vs trash, but rather than delivering a moralistic lecture on the virtues of wearing underwear while clubbing, Aguilera seemed to be saying it's possible to be mature and skanky at the same time. She might be wearing white now, but she's still the girl who sang Dirty in assless chaps, and she's not ashamed.
BLOC PARTY at the Kool Haus
A word of advice to Kele Okereke : though spinning records at girly fashion destination Aritzia on Sunday afternoon was definitely a good way to get impressionable hotties to buy your band's new album, your time might've been better spent lingering a bit longer at sound check. Especially when you and your Bloc Party buds were booked at the Kool Haus , a concrete bunker notorious for making vocals sound like shit, later that evening.
Admittedly, the tunes from Bloc Party's A Weekend In The City disc were miles better live, their hooks energized and ricocheting off the venue's steel beams, than the flaccid, whinging studio version. And the rest of the band, particularly drummer Matt Tong sounded tremendous. Too bad Okereke's urgent singing was all but inaudible. Since opener Albert Hammond Jr. didn't suffer from the same setback, we can't help but wonder about the sound check factor.