Tue, Oct 23
ANNIE LENNOX at Massey Hall Rating: NNNN
With one eye on a video backdrop showing snippets of old Eurythmics videos and the other on Annie Lennox marching furiously across Massey's stage during Thorn In My Side, it was kind of astonishing to see how little the vocalist has changed since the decade that launched her.
The 52-year-old still wears her dyed hair cropped short and still delivers her songs with disarming intensity, furthered by hip-swaggering dance moves and a steely gaze that can break into an eye-bulging smile at the turn of lyric.
Lennox came out swinging with solo hits Walking On Broken Glass and No More I Love Yous. She slowed the pace with a piano-ballad section that included renditions of Here Comes The Rain Again and Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves, for which Lennox enlisted audience help, adding the caveat that we must "do it like the groovy people do it, not like white folks."
While we all knew the political speech was coming, Lennox's intelligently utilized the encore ritual to present her AIDS/Africa message. Instead of going through the ego-pumping script of soaking up applause for the inevitable return, she played a moving and informative video, came out to discuss the issue passionately and then proceeded to grand-slam the encore. Still a class act all the way.
LITTLE BROTHER at The Mod Club Rating: NNN
Arabesque answered the call to rip open the show with his Melanie Durrant-featured radio hit Nature's Phone, while Evidence followed with above-average rapping over headbangin' beats from The Weatherman LP and Dilated Peoples snippets. "This is dedicated to Kanye West, who hasn't called me back in three months!" hilariously stated Mr. Slow Flow, who concluded his show with the bass-heavy song of the same name.
When Little Brother tried to resurrect the righteous riot of their previous Phoenix concert, they came up a bit short. Not that the rotund vocalists weren't totally rocking the spot, but Phonte's Dirty (mouth) South mentality didn't translate for us polite Canadians, and apparently the mix of new material (third album, mix-tape and solo work) meant Toronto is beyond LB's tipping point.
While only vaguely addressing the 9th Wonder split, the singer and Big Pooh performed well. And Phonte's singalong cover of MJ's Man In The Mirror, dramatic Percy Miracles crooner segues and six clap-alongs showed how much he tried to impress.
Wed, Oct 24
SHAD K with GRAND ANALOG and DJ T-LO at The Mod Club Rating: NNNN
Combining two of the most promising rising stars in Canadian hiphop, this double bill brought an almost full house back to the Mod Club for the second day in a row. Grand Analog, featuring a refocused Odario of Mood Ruff and a team of rather unrestrained instrumentalists, performed for 40 time-warped minutes before his dub dripping gave way to DJ T-Lo's frenetic turntable showcase. His vinyl shredding mixed diverse and well-selected hits, setting things up for Shad K and company, who hit the stage to a blistering beatbox by Corbin.
With the help of his drummer, DJ and bass player, plus the inimitable Brownman manically manipulating his trumpet to make it sound like turntables scratching a test tone, Shad proved he's the one man slick enough to say "quarantine those cheesy raps/ before I tell Justin I'm bringing sleazy back."
The crowd was lovin' it all, from the anthem Compromise to the acoustic gem Story No One Told and the closing spirited freestyle over a live-plus-vinyl version of Talib Kweli's Get By.
Thu, Oct 25
BUCK 65 at Music Gallery Rating: NNNN
The Music Gallery at St.George-the-Martyr Church provided a simple, intimate setting for yet another creative, unique Buck 65 concert experience.
While a black-and-white video montage of headlines and observations about the world in 1957 (for example, both Spike Lee and Steve Buscemi were born that year) played, the incomparable DJ Skratch Bastid snuck up behind the turntables and seamlessly segued into a 30-minute set of selections from Situation.
Spread 'Em just might be the best song ever about John Q. Law apprehending the bad guy, and the Cadence Weapon collaboration sounded promising. The church's acoustics slightly dulled the show's impact, but Rich Terfry's tales of negotiating sample prices with the Incredible Bongo Band, who just sold old-school heat to Nas, was enlightening and hilarious. The song is called Dang, and it's Buck 65 at his best.
Fri, Oct 26
WEEN at Sound Academy Rating: NNN
Dean and Gene and company returned to Toronto to please thousands of Ween fiends who convened at Sound Academy (formerly the Docks) on Friday night.
Two distinct instrumentals got the crowd charged up, while a pulsating light show, synchronized perfectly to Claude Coleman Jr.'s jaw-dropping drumming, heightened the intensity. Fans threw up devil's horns, pumped their fists, danced and sang along to the non-stop stream of Ween, who ripped through the galloping Waving My Dick In The Wind, the melancholy Object, the steel-pan-tinted Bananas And Blow and a li'l something for the cowboys and girls off 12 Golden Country Greats.
The Ween machine romped and roared for well over two hours, as the many costumed freaks in the audience got their Thriller on.