Wed, Sep 26
SMALL SINS at Supermarket, Rating: NNNN
Tom D'Arcy 's low-key unveiling of Mood Swings, the new album from Small Sins (formally Ladies and Gentlemen), felt more like a pre-tour exercise than a full-on coming-out party. But the five-piece didn't play with any less gusto. Towering Belgian Todor Kobakov , Kevin Hilliard and Darcy all intermittently worked their Korg keyboards to give their Britpop-infected synth pop an intensive layering of electro sounds. Guitarist Steve Krecklo was no slouch either, dropping sharp licks and chugging rhythms overtop Brent Follett 's simplistic 80s pop beats. Songs from Mood Swings were greeted enthusiastically (Sloan's Jay Ferguson and Moe Berg were in the crowd), including a jittery Talking Heads-type jam called Drunk E-Mails, a subject that many seem to relate to.
Thu, Sep 27
KEVIN DREW at Lee's Palace (early show), Rating: NNN
Watching a stripped-down Broken Social Scene is a little like watching the lead singer of a four-piece band play solo. Concert ticket winners gathered to watch Kevin Drew , Brendan Canning and four others run through Drew's new disc, Spirit If. With only six guys onstage, BSS's usual wall of sound was noticeably missing. Instead, it felt like your run-of-the-mill rock band. Surprisingly, it was exciting to hear Drew play his tunes like anyone else. The pretentiousness was gone. There was no massive onstage party, though Tom Cochrane did show up for a very Canadiana rendition of Lucky Ones, and the band didn't play for hours on end. While the six-piece, which also included Justin Peroff (BSS), Sam Goldberg (Uncut), Bill Priddle (Treble Charger) and American Analog Set's Andrew Kenny , mainly stuck to Drew's new record, they did treat fans to a few of BSS's more memorable tunes.
Fri, Sep 28
BLOC PARTY at the Docks, Rating: NNN
It's not Bloc Party 's fault they were forced to move from one terrible venue (Ricoh Coliseum) to another brutal location ( the Docks ). It's a shame that there was no way this concert could live up to their previous shows at the Opera House or even the Kool Haus.
The room was packed with sweaty bodies, all revved up to hear the UK darlings run through their new disc, A Weekend In The City. Musically, the band was right on. They blasted through about an hour and a half of tracks from their two records, and Kele Okereke 's frantic stage presence kept the visuals interesting.
Still, the overcrowded venue didn't invite the type of dancing that often accompanies a Bloc Party live show. In fact, by the end the crowd seemed worn out from all the pushing and heavy breathing. Most bolted for the doors immediately after the encore.
BAT FOR LASHES at the El Mocambo, Rating: NN
With all the hype surrounding Mercury Prize-nominated UK upstart Bat for Lashes , you'd expect their Toronto debut to be some kind of big, splashy event. But the well-attended El Mo gig turned out to be an oddly low-key affair. In fact, it was kind of a snooze.
Dressed in sparkles like a fortune-telling flapper, singer/songwriter Natasha Khan spent much of the brief set behind a keyboard softly crooning her ethereal tunes in a style reminiscent of Kate Bush, with nods to Björk and one of Tori Amos's alter egos.
Between songs, her three bandmates switched instruments while Khan stood around looking like a bored tween who'd gotten into Mommy's closet. As the evening wore on, the frequent stops further chipped away at the mystique they were trying hard to create, an effect already eroded by their use of canned backing tracks.
Not quite the magical spiritual communion with Toronto fans Bat for Lashes had likely intended.
Sat, Sep 29
VAST AIRE at the Rivoli, Rating: NNN
Toronto underground celebrity Equinox 199 opened for energetic Ottawa artist Flip Kuma and the Anticon-inspired rapper Atherton at the Rivoli , to a half-full room of abstract rap fanatics. Then Vast Aire and affiliates Karniege and Genesis unleashed their thought-bomb onslaught and wrecked shop for about 40 minutes with an unorthodox mix of random guest appearances, selections from Vast and Karniege's Mighty Joseph LP and a few other crowd-pleasing selections. The lone moment of nostalgic Def Jux joy came on the classic Raspberry Fields, when everyone sang along to Vast's witty wordplay. Yet no matter how dope he is alone or with his Harlem homies, one still wishes he'd reunite with El-P, find Vordul and craft another intangibly magical Cannibal Ox masterpiece.