Thu, Dec 13
RRIICCEE at the Music Gallery Rating: NN
Vincent Gallo and Eric Erlandson slumped over their guitars, scraggly long hair veiling their faces, playing disjointed notes that rarely connected on a melody. This was not jamming, insisted Gallo. Don’t call it improvisation either. According to him, Rriiccee “compose spontaneously.” Fine. Whatever.
The concept is admirably daring: perform without pre-written music, put yourself on the line for your detractors (an issue Gallo addressed with equal amounts of humour and martyrdom). But their musicianship simply wasn’t strong enough to pull it off.
Gallo’s guitar playing was serviceable; Hole’s Erlandson and RebeccaCasabian (keys) added texture on texture, while Nikolas Haas (Luke’s bro) pulled beats out of his ass with no particular finesse. The end product was at best something that might pass as the soundtrack for The Brown Bunny 2.
Let’s face facts: everyone in that church paid handsomely because of Gallo’s cult of celebrity. Buffalo 66 was 10 years ago, people. Move on.
KEITH URBAN at the Air Canada Centre Rating: NNNN
New country will never, ever be cool, try as it might to excite a younger generation with a glossed-up version of the same inherent dorkiness and macho buffoonery that is, essentially, regular country with sunglasses and tinted hair. So in a genre that usually reeks of too much effort, it’s a good thing that someone like KeithUrban is around who, along with his band and their collective “Fuck it, let’s have some fun” attitude, put on one hell of a show.
No doubt aware of his sex symbol status, Urban worked for his money and his many admirers, playing the requisite hits and running around the extended stage for nearly two hours while demonstrating that he’s actually a phenomenal musician. Aside from a weirdly inappropriate drum corps appearance, the New Zealander was nothing short of fantastic to watch, and never resorted to Nashville cheesebaggery along the way.
THE HIDDEN CAMERAS at Hart House Rating: NNNN
Montreal/Toronto three-piece Sister Suvi blessed the hundred-plus patrons at the expansive HartHouse performance hall with a relentless display of innovative, energetic (and alternating) instrumentation, so much so that lead singer Merrill was tinged crimson by the second song. Her comedic character carried the songs with impressive gusto, and her ukulele skills were not to be scoffed at, especially when she pulled out her violin bow and went to town with an even more animated display of performance power.
A hard act to follow, so the Hidden Cameras went in an entirely other direction. For their dramatic entrance, eight instrumentalists and 15 singing “monks” in hoodies cut off at the chest descended the spiral staircase at stage right.
Sprightly xylophones, robust upright bass lines and jangling guitars provided some of the foundation for the Hidden Cameras’ nearly two dozen songs, and the clap-alongs, the use of props and crowd interaction made the show extremely entertaining. I Believe In The Good of Life, its soul affirming lyrics accompanying the jumping monks, looked like a Spike Jonze video, and the rollicking Lollipops was another sweet moment to taste. Their three-song encore ended with a folk version of Rihanna’s Umbrella, a hilariously generous way to add to the good times.
Fri, Dec. 14
PATRICK WATSON at the Mod Club Rating: NNNN
Outside the venue, Patrick Watson looked amused to learn that for the first time ever, scalpers were selling tickets for his sold-out show. That Polaris win earlier this year must have quickly increased the singer’s fan base. Watson was certainly up for the challenge of entertaining everyone, and it was hard to tell whether he or the audience was having more fun.
Playing through his critically lauded album, Close To Paradise, Watson crooned away like a Vegas lounge singer, covering Frog Eyes while his equally excitable band filled in the space with massive noise flourishes that would have made Jim O’Rourke proud. He’d already delivered by the time openers Plants & Animals were called out for a jam, so when he strolled out to the middle of the venue to lead the crowd in an unplugged sing-along, it was clear this kid deserves his kudos.