Wed, Apr 2
Jay-Z/Mary J. Blige at the ACC
Combining to become a force greater than the sum of their parts, Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z brought the nearly sold-out ACC audience a spectacular display of audio/visual creativity and sophistication. Too bad Toronto’s Screwface mentality reared its ugly head yet again.
Logically starting off with their 1996 duet Can’t Knock The Hustle, Blige, in a shimmering black blouse, and Jigga, in his sparkling dark hoodie, were a match made in hustler heaven. Then Mary danced solo down memory lane for the next hour, performing her many heartfelt hits and ballads, complete with projections on the enormous backdrop and two dozen live musicians arranged like an orchestra. She went ballistic on No More Drama, but caught Toronto sleeping on her epic I’m Going Down.
Jay-Z rocked full versions of at least 25 gems, but his “I got a million of these” boast backfired when he pissed off the crowd by teasing with 10 snippets of some of his fan favourites before dropping the irresistible Big Pimpin’. Adding rare Biggie footage, Memphis Bleek, more fireworks and AC/DC’s Back In Black to 99 Problems did redeem the grandiose experience, though. Blige then rejoined Jay for the finale, Heart Of The City (Ain’t No Love). The lack of an encore made the show just short of immaculate.
Thu, Apr 3
MONOTONIX with ANAGRAM, METZ and LSDOUBLEDCUP at Sneaky Dees
The first sign that Israeli rock force Monotonix were planning the unpredictable was when Gever began setting up his drum kit dead centre in the middle of the dance floor. From there the night went from slightly weird to completely off-the-wall meshuggah.
As soon as the Tel Aviv trio started blasting their stoner boogie rock, they were in the eye of a whirlpool of sweaty humanity. Not that that posed any obstacle for wild frontman Ami Shalev, a dead ringer for Triumph bassist Mike Levine. When not vertically spouting beer like a whale, Shalev scaled the walls, tables, DJ booth, heads and shoulders, and even ran to the washroom, returned with two garbage pails, then proceeded to scatter rubbish before putting one of the bins over his head while writhing on the defiled floor.
Yonatan Gat, meanwhile, could be the loudest guitarist the Middle East has ever produced. His Hendrix/Sabbath riffs fuelled the power trio at ear-damaging volumes, but that’s probably the only way he could hear himself amidst Monotonix’s unforgettable and thrilling chaos.
Fri, Apr 4
Duchess Says at Wrongbar
There literally was blood on the dance floor Friday night at Wrongbar. Halfway through Duchess Says’s thrashing set, two dudes actually went toe-to-toe, landing punches and drawing blood, while the rest of the crowd let loose to the absolutely mesmerizing performance of frontwoman Annie-Claude Deschênes.
Just as tight and kinetic as the first time I saw them two years ago, the Montreal quartet really got things kicking with the distorted bass riff intro to Ccut Up, and maintained an unpredictable and entertaining presence right through the arpeggiated assault of crowd favourite In Serial. By mid-set, Deschênes was traversing the crowd (sometime being carried by fans, sometimes crawling or writhing on her stomach) with what had to be the world’s longest mic cable in tow. It was testament to Duchess’s electro-tinged attack – and to the fevered response they elicited from the audience – that few even noticed the brawl.
ASHA BHOSLE at Roy Thomson Hall
For a singer celebrating her 75th year, vibrant Bollywood diva Asha Bhosle performed with the spirit and vocal power of a woman half her age for a dazzled Roy Thomson Hall crowd Friday night. Shrewdly using entertaining anecdotes about her stellar five-decade career as the premier playback singer to catch her breath between songs, Bhosle showed not only the thrilling range and versatility but also the resourcefulness that has made her the most recorded voice in history.
Considering that she’s said to have some 25,000 songs in her vast repertoire, there was no way she could get to everyone’s favourites over the course of the 90-minute retrospective, in which she was capably joined for duets by impressive opener Amit Kumar (the playback-singing son of the late, great Kishore Kumar). But she did an admirable job of mixing memorable crowd-pleasers with less familiar numbers sampled from various points in her highly productive partnership with songwriter/producer R.D. Burman.
Unfortunately, Bhosle’s backing group, more like a moonlighting wedding band than a concert orchestra, couldn’t come close to conjuring the complex turns and dramatic flourishes of Burman’s sophisticated arrangements.
Synthesized strings and a heavy hand on the wind chimes cheesed things up considerably during the romantic ballads, but at least the musicians understood their supporting role well enough not to drown out the still vital star of the show.