Wed, July 11
CHROMEO at Spin Gallery Rating: NNN
From the queue snaking half a block down Queen West all the way to Dovercourt, it was clear that electro-pop duo Chromeo's show was way past the point of sold out.
Those shut out didn't miss much with Flosstradamus . The Chicago duo laptopped an uninspired DJ set of tracks ranging from Tone-Loc and Sir Mix-a-Lot laughers to mercilessly overplayed Daft Punk staples.
Thankfully, Chromeo quickly set things right, busting into Me & My Man for a sweaty, dance-ready mass.
As much as people like to lump Chromeo into the anything-goes indie electro world, let it be known these dudes take their musicianship seriously. Just watch as Dave 1 shreds a mean guitar intro to Bonafied Lovin' (Tough Guys) or P-Thugg 's bass chops and mastery of the talk-box, a skill that left jaws hanging during their encore of Journey's Don't Stop Believin'.
Fri, July 13
MAMANI KEITA and NICOLAS REPAC at Harbourfront Centre Rating: NNN
Bamako-born Mamani Keita and her Parisian electro-funk producer, Nicolas Repac , who mix traditional Bambara vocals with electronica as well as Western rock, funk and jazz, had the Harbourfront Centre crowd sitting politely and listening on Friday.
Keita has impeccable vocal control, shifting intonations and rhythms fluidly. Those years spent touring with Salif Keita's vocalists weren't for nothing. However, songs from her newest Yelema (conceived, arranged and produced by Repac, who plays with deft jazz fusion guitar skills) lack the energy and bump required to raise mostly middle-aged asses out of their seats.
Granted, toward the end the vibe picked up, with a brave contingent getting tribal near the stage once Keita started shaking it herself on the more lively closers. A nice experience, but once you've seen and heard Malian music delivered more forcefully - as it was during last year's Amadou and Mariam show at the same venue - nice just isn't enough.
Sat, July 14
DENNIS COFFEY at Harbourfront Centre Rating: NNN
The upside of intermittent rain at Harbourfront Centre on Saturday was that no one had to wait an hour in line for a cold jerk chicken leg and a side of plantain at the food tent, and the choice of seating was limited only by whatever bench-drying you were prepared to do.
Up front the puddles were relatively minor, so naturally that's where the smallish crowd, who came to hear how unheralded funk brother Dennis Coffey helped lead Motown into the 70s, gathered.
As usual, the unpretentious guitar guru, casually attired like many middle-aged men in the crowd and sporting a narrow-brimmed hat with aviator shades, took the stage without any fanfare and began using his Gibson 345 to knock out the familiar grooves that have become the soundtrack of a hiphop generation.
The presence of numerous music stands was a bit worrisome at first, but the local players hired for the gig seemed to be able to follow along without too much difficulty. Still, seeing Coffey cut loose with Lil' Buck Sinegal and the Top Cats in Austin back in March made it clear that there's a difference between the support provided by competent musicians working from sheet music and a genuine funk band getting down. The Top Cats didn't need a road map to navigate the changes of Coffey's classic Scorpio or the theme from Black Belt Jones.
Coffey did the best he could under the circumstances, delivering heavily flanged flourishes again and again while his vamping sidemen tried not to mess up. However, having a band who already knew his repertoire staples would've made for exciting exchanges and a more comprehensive set list.
Even without hearing Cloud Nine, Psychedelic Shack and some of the countless other hits Coffey enhanced in the studio, it was still a pleasant recital.
MAXIMO PARK at Mod Club Rating: NN
It's always a little strange to see a large-scale headliner walk onstage promptly at 9. Early shows are smart business for the venue, especially when you're in Little Italy on a Saturday, but you can't help feeling a little robbed of the excitement and release that comes with a buildup.
Nevertheless, Paul Smith and his Maxïmo Park crew of uptempo Newcastle art-popsters did their best to rock the audience, opening with the quick snare beat and downstroke power chords of Graffiti.
Smith, wearing a bowler and white blazer, does a lot of wild Iggy moves that make up for the mostly rooted-still band (save for Lukas Wooller , who plays like he's facing gale winds with only a keyboard to hold onto).
Midway through the set, heads finally started bobbing. Smith kept up the energy, ripping through the speedy new wave of Books From Boxes, then Russian Literature (they dig reading), never doubting that the stiffs staring at him could be mobilized.
In the end, it never really happened, the place quickly emptied and the second wave of Saturday Mod Clubbers made their way in to start their night.
Mon, July 16
BATTLES at Lee's Palace Rating: NNN
Sound problems go hand in hand with being in a rock band, so it was surprising when NYC's Battles nearly shut down after an amp went haywire.
The band started strong. Their blistering math rock assault led by John Stanier 's aggressive drumming had part of the Lee's crowd dancing and the rest in awe, but after 20 minutes something went wrong. It wasn't clear what had happened, but instead of playing through it or finding a quick resolution, the band waited and waited until the problem was solved. By that point the energy had almost completely faded.
Unfortunately, when Battles did get things going again, the packed crowd - which included Kevin Drew and all of Metric sans Emily Haines - couldn't muster up their initial enthusiasm.
Still, the songs themselves, most of which were off their debut disc, were brilliant, with both Ian Williams and Tyondai Braxton lacing into fast-fingered riffs with one hand while the other played equally speedy keyboard melodies.
In the end, Battles put on an admirable set, but their time management skills need some work.