Tues, June 19
TONA VIDEO RELEASE PARTY at Revival Rating: NNN
Party rocker extraordinaire DJ Nana and deep digger DJ Channel 9 warmed things up at Revival on Tuesday as the crowd waited patiently for Tona 's newest creation.
When it was showtime, Tona's video for Dial Tone played on two projection screens. It was fine, if a bit straightforward.
For his live performance, Tona came out in a boxing jacket with his hype man playing trainer, and the jacket came off when the MC started throwing verbal haymakers over the rugged production of each of the half-dozen selections he delivered.
Jumping on hiphop dubs and his own originals, Tona kept the audience fully engaged.
Thurs, June 21
MANU CHAO at Kool Haus Rating: NNNNN
Imagine seeing the Tragically Hip in a small American town or the Rolling Stones at the Phoenix. That's what it was like when Paris-based international superstar Manu Chao wowed a sold-out Kool Haus .
The six-piece, who usually play for hundreds of thousands in Europe and Latin America, plowed through two and half hours of hits. They jumped, fist-pumped and screamed all night, while their mix of reggae, ska, punk and rock satisfied the eclectic crowd. Highlights included Mr. Bobby, Clandestino and Merry Blues, but every track thrilled the devoted throng.
Fri, June 22
MORE OR LES at Supermarket Rating: NNN
More or Les, a pillar of the underground community and multi-element hiphop creator, threw a going-away party before he moves to Montreal.
Les kicked it off with comedic cuts from I Only Stop For The Red Ants before the Wordburglar resurrected Smooth da Hustler's classic Broken Language in his own zany way.
Rhythmicru delivered an energetic mini-set, with D-Ray professinig that he's a hiphop head who "rhymes and finds wordplay / to avoid the need to live a 9-to-5 workday," as Cale and Snowy Owl sustained the consistency.
Peter Project punched the MPC pads with crowd-pleasing results. Professor Fingers also created a slice of percussion paradise with some double-time cutting that Les rocked in lockstep.
Abdominal played cleanup man each time he confidently grabbed the mic.
The night was unquestionably a success. Good luck in Montreal, Les.
THE FRAY at Molson Amphitheatre Rating: NN
Call it a Christian rock ambush. I certainly wasn't expecting such a totally alcohol-free, wholesome concert experience when The Fray played the Molson Amphitheatre .
I bet that a large portion of the well-behaved youngsters at the Amp did know the band's faith-based beginnings, just like they knew all the lyrics coming out of piano-playing lead singer Isaac Slade 's mouth. These, by the way, have no religious metaphors. The songs, which rarely exceed ballad pace, seem to be mostly about relationships, though because they're sometimes ambiguous, you could probably find a Christian message in there if you wanted to.
When they played their huge hit Over My Head during their encore, they triggered a massive singalong. Cellphone screens lit up - a nice moment. But during the hour up to that point, this concert was dry in more ways than one.
Sat, June 23
THE EX, DRUMHELLER at Lee's Palace Rating: NNN
A couple of songs into to The Ex 's oddly sedate set, it became clear that in the years since the mighty Dutch punk crew last performed in Toronto, they'd made some drastic changes to their performance routine. Most notably, the Ex now have a performance routine.
In the past, the guitar-slashing front line of the awesome foursome wouldn't think twice about spontaneously launching headfirst into a free-for-all, pinballing off each other while guitar strings busted and pieces of the drum kit flew into the audience. Now every move onstage and each progression appears to be tightly scripted.
This time, they didn't break a sweat. After their respectable 90-minute show, they looked about as physically drained as someone who'd watched a game of chess on TV.