Tue, May 8
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM with YACHT at the Phoenix
A couple nights after holding a disco clinic in a Queen West club, James Murphy slipped back into rock star mode, bringing his band, LCD Soundsystem, to the Phoenix for a sweaty sold-out gig.
Portland's Yacht (Jona Bechtolt) opened with a song-and-dance routine soundtracked by his laptop. Yacht danced around the stage like a John Hughes teen testing his new moves before the big prom, and his enthusiasm was infectious enough to get most of the crowd on his side (kind of like clapping for the triumphant nerd at the end of the movie).
Once LCD, including Hot Chip's Alan Doyle on guitar, locked into the pulsating beat of Us V Them, a bulky-looking Murphy appeared from behind the curtain to assume frontman duties. Murphy's past incarnation as a studio engineer became obvious as he surveyed the stage, adjusting drum mics, fiddling with amp volumes and tweaking synth knobs.
Just as band and dance floor were catching fire during Yeah, a blown bass amp and fried drum monitors doused the whole party. LCD left the stage while techs tried without success to solve the issues.
They eventually returned, did a rough Joy Division cover and Murphy's piano-based New York ode, and then pulled the plug for good. Not an optimal finish, but the show ended only a few songs short, so nobody can really complain too loudly.
Fri, May 11
ARCTIC MONKEYS with BE YOUR OWN PET at Kool Haus
If Abercrombie & Fitch ever wants to bolster its frat-clothes empire, it should set up shop at an Arctic Monkeys concert. It was surprising how popular this British five-piece is among the A&F crowd; a good chunk of the Kool Haus's nearly sold-out crowd wore the company's famous collared Ts. Equally shocking was the audience reaction to the band. Wild fist pumps, ear-splitting cheers and a whole lot of singing along showed the Monkeys are no one-hit wonders.
It's not hard to imagine openers Be Your Own Pet finding themselves in the same place a few years from now. The Nashville band has the same fiery vocals and rapid punk riffs as the headliners. Playing first at the cavernous Kool Haus is tough, since concertgoers usually skip the hired help, but BYOP held their own. In fact, with a bevy of exciting, infectious tracks, combined with Jemina Pearl's spastic gestures, they might've been the night's more entertaining act.
The Monkeys did just fine, but given all their rabid fans, their lack of energy was baffling. Covering their two records, the band traversed a series of big hits, but they barely moved and rarely engaged the audience. Even their between-song banter was limited to a few words and a lot of tuning.
BLONDE REDHEAD at the Opera House
In person, Blonde Redhead singer/guitarist Kazu Makino comes off a fuck of a lot tougher than her featherweight vocals might suggest. That otherworldly butterfly soprano that hovers above the band's thick arrangements of textured guitar and electronics on disc is just as delicate when she's cooing into a mic onstage. But her performance presence is imposing and hypnotic, whether Makino's standing stock still with eyes rolled back like that creepy ghost girl in The Grudge or affecting guitar-rocker poses opposite bandmate Amedeo Pace.
Blonde Redhead's swing through the Opera House Friday cast the fragile dream-pop tunes from their latest album, 23, in an engaging new light. As they launched into a set front-loaded with new material, Makino's intense energy provided a necessary focus for the songs' gauzy, swirly arrangements, many of which were based on pre-recorded electronic tracks that echoed through the club's PA like the biggest indie karaoke ever.
Still, the singer's steady anchoring only went so far, and though Blonde Redhead's performance was good, it fell short of greatness. A set list heavy on more recent songs made for an extended run of trippy ambience without enough Big Rock Show moments; anyone in the crowd who wasn't stoned (and probably a few who were) likely wished he or she were listening to the soaring melodies at home through headphones.
Sat, May 12
AMY WINEHOUSE & THE DAP-KINGS with PATRICK WOLF at the Mod Club
With scalpers outside the Mod Club asking $200 for a single ticket to see Amy Winehouse's Toronto debut Saturday night, it was apparent anyone thinking the week's hottest ticket was the return of Arcade Fire was sadly mistaken. Both Winehouse's father and her fiancé, Blake Fielder-Civil (see his name tattooed on her left breast), realized that her tour-closing dates with Brooklyn's Dap-Kings would be an event. They were right.
The delightfully upbeat pop anthems of Patrick Wolf went over extremely well, but everyone was there to see the talked-about Brit soul diva. It was clear from the way the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd erupted in cheers when she strolled out in a white tank top and skinny jeans that sagged on her pencil-thin legs.
Though the Dap-Kings were actually a last-minute replacement for Winehouse's brief North American swing, the well-drilled deep funk combo provided super-tight accompaniment and didn't miss a beat all night. As for Winehouse, having her loved ones in attendance seemed to bring out her best. Unlike some recent shows where she looked slightly lost, the singer hit all her marks and appeared to be having the time of her life doing it.