Thu, Jan 24
MICHAEL BUBLE at the Air Canada Centre Rating: NNN
Equal parts singer and entertainer, Michael Bublé charmed his way through a meagre 12 songs in an hour-and-a-half set. Backed by 11 musicians including a six-piece brass section, he got the crowd roaring during his wide-eyed version of Fever with a tongue-in cheek lyrical substitution about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bublé’s penchant for Canadian references helped the 1,400-plus crowd feel right at home in the packed auditorium. He told at least 10 sports anecdotes, including a confession that he’d wanted to be a hockey player and not some “wimpy singer.” Humour may actually be what sustains his balancing act of sentimental crooning and macho bravado.
The climax of the show was the pared-down duet between Bublé and his pianist on You Are Always On My Mind. The audience was aglow with digital recording devices to capture the tenderness of Bublé’s drooping head, and couples all around reached out to clutch one another in the semi-darkness.
Fri, Jan 25
STEAM WHISTLE UNSIGNED INDIE MUSIC SERIES featuring WE ARE THE TAKE, GRAND ANALOG and MAJOR MAKER at Steam Whistle Brewery Rating: NNN
A lot of people like Steam Whistle beer, but do we really want this brand to help you discover music? Well, as long as the company keeps putting together solid gigs like its fifth “unsigned” band showcase, by all means.
The night featured three up-and-coming Toronto acts - We Are the Take, Grand Analog and Major Maker. Show stealer was easily Grand Analog, whose mix of funk, rap and rock really resonated with the crowd. Playing tracks off their debut, Calligraffiti, the band had the crowd dancing by the end of their set.
Major Maker’s only track worth hearing is Rollercoaster, also known as the “song from that commercial.” And even that track is questionable.
We Are the Take kicked off the set, and while their audience was sparse, their music was infectious and should propel them out of unsigned status in no time.
Sat, Jan 26
RA RA RIOT and the VIRGINS at the El Mocambo Rating: NNN
These two bands have plenty of sweet, sweet buzz surrounding them right now, and combined they managed to pack the El Mo. But they have little in common in performance.
New York’s Virgins are a rather dry response to the Strokes. The neo-garage/R&B/indie rock four-piece almost seemed sedated. Basically, the songs are nearly there; just don’t know about the rest yet.
Far more impressive were Ra Ra Riot, a Syracuse chamber-pop group whose live exuberance was paired with songwriting that blends the straightforward uptempo melancholy of New Order with the dramatic, bubbling intensity of the Arcade Fire. The songs and execution were smart, and naturally charismatic frontman singer Wesley Miles and his band had a chemistry and dynamic that rescued a so-so night.
Sun, Jan 27
WAVELENGTH featuring the TORRENT, SOFT COPY and SLEEPLESS NIGHTS at Sneaky Dees Rating: NNN
Luckily, the revival of garage rock has given local trio Soft Copy a chance to make some noise with their steady rhythms and ego-free guitar solos, a welcome contrast to the streaky follow-up by Halifax shoegazers Sleepless Nights.
Armed with sunglasses and nonchalance, the Torrent are the kind of kids who remind you why it’s cool to be in a band. The languid stance of singer/electric violinist Cameron Groves is in perfect balance with the erratic energetics of Mikey B. on guitar. Tara Azzopardi hangs back on keys and a four-piece drum kit, her youngish voice occasionally pushing out through the drone. This drone is what defines the Torrent’s sound, as the digging guitar and keys tear underneath Cameron’s wallowing bellows.
Watching the Torrent is like looking through an old View-Master; around the edges there may be a faded punk nostalgia, but this only works to bring into sharp focus their bright and innovative centre.