Tue, Feb 19
HAYDEN at the Danforth Music Hall Rating: NNNN
Whether he’s playing to small rooms or big halls like he did last Tuesday, Hayden has always, purely on the weight of his songs and his shy, sedated personality, been able to make anyone seeing him feel like they’re in his basement for a private concert.
Playing generously from his new album, In Field & Town, and accompanying himself only with a guitar or piano (plus a little guest trumpeting), the singer/songwriter also borrowed plenty from his back catalogue with standards like Bad As They Seem, Stem and Bass Song. Now that he’s an older, seasoned performer you might expect that his show would be glossed over and uninspired. But no matter how many times you’ve heard the songs they remain as comforting and alive as ever.
Fri, Feb 22
ALANIS MORISSETTE and MATCHBOX TWENTY at the Air Canada Centre Rating: NN
Alanis Morissette sounded humbled performing in the opening slot for Matchbox Twenty but kept her rawk-grrl rage smouldering instead of trying to steal the show from the headliners. Inching toward Mariah Carey territory, she cut a voluptuous figure in black leather pants as she mumbled and warbled the anticipated Jagged Little Pill staples the seated and increasingly alienated audience waited to hear. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
It was an entirely different story for Rob Thomas and company. A mammoth TV screen with animations introduced their adult contemporary pop-rock stylings. The forceful spectacle caused much aisle-dancing, clapping along and late-90s reminiscing as the band bathed in the complicated lighting arrangements. If the stage banter was lame, the inspirational energy was undeniably satisfying.
ANGELS & AIRWAVES at the Kool Haus Rating: NN
San Diego’s Angels & Airwaves may have convinced themselves that they’ve tapped into some great musical profundity, but for all the big, self-righteous talk by singer and ex-Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge and their limp and often pedestrian take on U2-meets-even-more-cheese, their show was merely mediocre.
A muddy sound mix made hearing DeLonge difficult (when his voice made it through, it was at times embarrassingly off-key), and the band did a by-the-numbers set of same-sounding material from their two records, but numbers like Distraction and It Hurts got healthy reactions. They threw in a quick and forced solo Blink-182 medley, much to the delight of most there, but A&A just don’t have the chops and songwriting ability to make their show the spectacle they so wish it were.
Sat, Feb 23
COWBOY JUNKIES at Massey Hall Rating: NN
Thirty minutes before the Cowboy Junkies took the stage, a scalper had no takers for his “really cheap” pair of tickets. A complete stranger offered me a ticket gratis as I stood outside the historic venue waiting for a friend. The fact that the evening’s special guest, Ryan Adams, cancelled at the last minute due to illness (according to the sign posted near the ticket booth) had nothing to do with it. The Junkies themselves undercut audience interest in seeing their hugely successful Trinity Session album reprised live by unwisely issuing the star-studded Trinity Session Revisited concert DVD prior to their 20th anniversary tour.
There was a dearth of warm bodies (nearly entire rows of prime floor seats were empty when the performance began), but a profusion of flowers surrounded singer Margo Timmins’s microphone stand. She said she had to place a vase overflowing with roses on the floor so that “people can see me dance.” The self-deprecating witticism from the infamously inert frontwoman fell flat, like many of their uninspired attempts to recreate the feel of their early career peak moment.
As usual, the rest of the Junkies, save bassist Alan Anton, remained seated for the whole show. Guitarist/songwriter Michael Timmins only briefly raised his eyes from his fretboard to receive a change of guitars between songs or to signal mandolinist Jeff Bird to bring down the volume on his harmonica wheeze so everyone could hear his sister bellowing.
The most surprising aspect of the evening was how little the Junkies have changed in the two decades since The Trinity Session made them famous. Margo Timmins sings with a bit more self-assurance but no greater emotional power or range. The track-by-track Trinity run-through came off like an earnest attempt to recreate the piece for nostalgia’s sake rather than a reinvention, underscoring the sad truth that they haven’t progressed much as a group.