Wed, Oct 10
OPOPO/THE KLAXONS at the Opera House. Rating: NNN
The night kicked off with Apopo's raw synth stabs exploding into an unorthodox concoction of raw modern rock and post-rave dance music. The trio confidently unleashed a set of songs that got progressively more aggressive and exciting, and both the lead vocalist's and keyboardist's witty banter and compelling stage presence engaged the curious and growing Opera House crowd.
The Klaxons dutifully marched onstage on time, and the notoriously neutral Toronto crowd gave the so-called nu-rave rockers a surprising amount of adoration for every selection they recreated from their award-winning debut, Myths Of The Near Future (Polydor). Still, the experience was pretty straightforward: song, applause, song, applause, song, "Thank you, Toronto," more applause. But jumping into It's Not Over Yet instantly erased the malaise, and 45 minutes of distortion-soaked progressive rock had the crowd clapping continuously, ending the night with a one-song encore and building a menacing wall of sound with Four Horsemen Of 2012.
Sat, Oct 13
BROTHER ALI at the El Mocambo Rating: NNNN
After Blueprint tore open the event with his hilarious and incisive MCing, Brother Ali took the stage with a few of his closest friends, endearing himself to Toronto for the second time this year. Like his previous show at the Phoenix, Ali took 'em to church, invoking Southern gospel soul in a way few other MCs can. The difference this time? The usually stush Toronto crowd was so spellbound by Ali that his encore, when he took requests from the devotees filling the El Mo to near capacity, turned out to be as long as his main show. When he stopped to condescendingly chastise the lone drunk heckler, it was the perfect example of why one shouldn't dis the only MC in hiphop who inspires crowds to scream "Ali! Boom-baye!" like it's the Rumble In The Jungle all over again.
Mon, Oct 15
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND at the Air Canada Centre. Rating: NNN
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band returned to the ACC to guide a full house of fanatic Boss followers down memory lane. Kicking off with his new single, Radio Nowhere, he dutifully wound through his decades-deep catalogue, pouring his heart out on the subjects of love, life and the plight of the common man (and woman). An impassioned version of For You, from Greetings From Asbury Park, took the crowd right back to the beginning.
Springsteen's furious harmonica solos made people euphoric, while E Street Band members had their moments to shine, most notably Clarence "Big Man" Clemons, whose soulful saxophone segments were adoringly received.
The crowd-rousing Badlands and Born To Run were the pinnacle of the show, preceding a five-song encore that featured Dancing In The Dark and a singalong version of American Land.
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE at the Sony Centre. Rating: NNNN
It's not every day you're enveloped by huge clouds of pot smoke while taking in a show at the former Hummingbird Centre. It's not really a rock venue, let alone a place you expect to see a heavy rock band.
The flawlessly tight QOTSA don't need dank, beer-soaked clubs to put their point across. They tore the shit out of tracks from their latest, Era Vulgaris, as well as helpings of reinvigorated older material like The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret and Little Sister.
Singer Josh Homme handled the stage so well ,you'd think he owned the damn thing, while drummer Joey Castillo was unbelievable, pummelling the skins as if trying to bludgeon them to a quick death. The band knows how to please, and turned the second half of the show into an all-request party, letting fans shout out their favourites.
It's scary how this band just keeps getting better and better live.
!!! at the Opera House. Rating: NNNN
Considering both Spoon and Springsteen were in town, and it was Monday, the crowd !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk) managed to pull to the Opera House was impressive. Even better, they were mostly diehard fans of the disco-rock unit, so the energy level was amped from the first crack of Justin Van Der Volgen's thundering bass.
Singer Nic Offer made sure that level stayed up, roving the stage and manically busting out his questionable dance moves in between rhythmic vocal chants. Offer comes from the Bez school of dance inspiration: if those onstage are having fun dancing, the crowd will surely follow. And they did, increasingly throughout !!!'s pulsating set of percussion-centred electro funk, with Myth Takes jams like Must Be The Moon and Heart Of Hearts getting the biggest responses.
Eventually, Offer's zealous gyrations and peacock prancing got the best of him. During a move akin to a squat thrust, he stood up to reveal that his tight jeans had split near the right cheek. Somehow, they'd morphed into buttless chaps by the time !!! returned for their righteous encore.