Fri, Nov 30
Raekwon, GZA and U-God at the Big Sexy, Oshawa Rating: NNNN
Wu-Tang fanatics seeking more than a Meth(od Man) high found what they were looking for just after 1 am at the Big Sexy club in the 'Shwa, of all places. When U-God's husky baritone barked out a mic check, disbelief transformed into instant ecstacy for the brave souls who ventured to the two-level venue.
U-God spat chunks of random Wu music, from obscure album cuts like Rumble and Bizarre to all of Da Mystery Of Chessboxin' and Cherchez La Ghost, which completely ignited the venue. After the joyful Gravel Pit faded, he introduced the GZA, whose drunken style won over the crowd the instant Reunited's violins sliced through the air. 4th Chamber, Shadowboxin' and more obscure cuts erupted before Raekwon joined the fray, and all three Clansmen bounced off each other for the rest of the evening.
Hearing ultra-gems like The Watch, Daytona 500 and a crowd singalong for all three verses of Verbal Intercourse was as satisfying as rap concerts get these days. GZA's slurring of "Aww-SHWA" and his frantic frustration with the border patrol became funny asides, and the entire stage was full of fans for Raekwon's Ice Cream finale. Congratulations to the promoters for making this show happen. Now let's hope for a Wu-Tang Clan/8 Diagrams concert in Canada.
Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards at the Rogers Centre Rating: NNNNN
If you needed more proof that there are a ton of talented musicians that fly under the radar in Canada, then the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards was it. Highlights included a one-song set by the night's triple award winner, country star Shane Yellowbird, and a raucous blues number by easy-on-the-eyes guitarist Derek Miller. Powwow group the Taabik Singers and unreal fiddle player Arvel Bird proved that there's a lot of music in this country that needs to be heard.
The only downside to this three-hour event was that it took place in a near-empty Rogers Centre. Since most of the nominees are from out west, a lot of native musicians miss out on one of the most interesting celebrations of native culture. So next year, keep the good performances and the slick awards show, but move the event to the Prairies so everyone's hard work can be properly honoured.
Sat, Dec 1
21st Annual Toronto Women's Blues Review at Massey Hall Rating: NNN
Precocious 13-year-old Montrealer Nikki Yanofsky belted out jaw-dropping, hair-raising versions of Aretha's Respect, Chain Of Fools and an ode to she-devils called Evil Gal at Massey Hall on Saturday night to start the celebration. Her helium-pitched banter couldn't hide her Southern-soaked spirit, and the middle-aged audience gave her a standing ovation.
A format of three songs for each of the six singers allowed for memorable performances by sisters doing it for themselves. A diverse seven-piece collective provided the foundation for all the singers, from Treasa Levasseur's smouldering voice and hilarious asides about adultery and showbiz protocol to Shawne Jackson's take on Billie Holiday's God Bless The Child that preceeded her inspirational tribute to the currently healing Jacksoul singer Haydain Neale.
After intermission, Roxanne Potvin's While I Wait struck a chord, as did the scorching sax solos in her set. BC's Layla Zoe almost stole the whole show with her long red hair, glittery blue dress and skyscraper, tattoo-adorned legs. Her seductively serpentine sway and Joplinesque energy during No More Stormy Mondays and Hoochie Coochie Woman had the crowd hypnotized. Dawn Tyler Watson's grinding version of Come Together rose and sank perfectly, before all six singers assembled for the finale, With A Little Help From My Friends, completing the night on the perfect note.
Stones Throw 2K Sports Bounce Tour 2007 at the Opera House Rating: NNNN
A gathering of some of the best independent hiphop available today, the Stones Throw showcase satisfied the almost full Opera House crowd. Percee P's rapid-fire delivery enthralled most. The only downside was his lack of fluidity during his transitions and finale.
Never let 'em see you sweat, right? Well, a dapper-looking Madlib sure wasn't sweating as he came out in his designer shades and earth-toned cardigan. He rocked hits like The Official and other Jaylib gems before uniting with Kareem "the best drummer in hiphop" Riggins to concoct some truly jaw-dropping percussion/turntable magic. Recreating many Jay Dee classics and funk records from bygone eras, the Soulquarians drummer and Otis remade Fall In Love and other crowd-igniting cuts with the turntable and drum kit. DJ Peanut Butter Wolf's DVD-synchronized mixed set of videos from ATCQ, Slick Rick, Diamond D and others was tons of fun to behold, and DJ J-Rocc spun random dance records to usher the hedz home. Guilty Simpson just might have been too much to handle this timeo but bring him next time anyway, please.