Wed, Apr 30
YELLE at the Opera House, Rating: NNNN
No record on North American store shelves, singing completely in French: these appear to be very minor obstacles in the story of Yelle’s rising star, as a packed Opera House showed last week.
Julie Budet’s star power overrides any such industry guidelines. She’s magnetic onstage, impossible to take your eyes off, as she pops and locks updated Madonna dance moves from the Material Girl era.
Wearing a crimson dress with the title of a familiar Nirvana song written on the front over black lamé tights, Yelle was highly fashionable and sexy without revealing more than a shoulder. The mostly female audience was surely taking notes.
And the music was tight. Yelle’s poptastic voice sounded sweet and clear over Grand Marnier’s club beats, which hit the crowd hard with tracks like A Cause Des Garçons and Je Veux Te Voir, when even the too-?cool kids in the upper deck were shaking it, especially on set closer and francopop gem Ce Jeu.
Thu, May 1
OVER THE TOP FEST at various venues, Rating: NNNN
I was totally psyched to see playful Guelph post-?punks the D’Urbervilles take on the Ukula store as part of Eric Warner’s seventh annual Over The Top Fest. However, I was told when I got there that singer John O’Regan had just been rushed to the emergency room with terrible stomach pains, so the set was scrubbed. (Here’s hoping dude makes a quick recovery.)
From there I headed over to Sneaky Dee’s to see California’s Bobby Birdman, whose eclectic laptop set went over well. Sneaks was filling with people anxious to catch Woodhands, fresh from their cross-?Canada jaunt. Rocking his now ?trademark white Roland keytar, frontman Dan Werb led a throng of spastic fans to I Can’t See Straight and I Wasn’t Made For Fighting, before trading vocals with drummer Paul Banwatt on Dancer. Banwatt also displayed his rap skills, busting out an impromptu verse from Wu-Tang Clan’s Triumph to the delight of pretty much everyone.
THE VERVE at Ricoh Coliseum, Rating: NNN
The grey rainy weather went perfectly with the shoegazer psychedelia of the re-?resurrected Verve. (Third time’s a charm?) A DJ primed the audience with top 40 oldies but goodies before showtime. When righteous Richard Ashcroft restarted the magic, it didn’t take much to please Verve virgins and veterans alike.
Guitarist Nick McCabe and bassist Simon Jones ran onstage sporting Toronto FC scarves, waving to the nearly sold-?out Ricoh Coliseum, inspiring the audience before His Pale Greatness, sauntered out. Firing off all the hits, he said, “There’s still some life in the old dogs yet. Bloody ’ell!” Couldn’t argue with the man. But the lone new song they played earned only a shrug from the audience. For his encore, a generous seven-?minute Bitter Sweet Symphony, Ashcroft announced, “This is a soul, rock ’n’ roll, blues and hip-?hop song. It’s for the working man, for you all!” Charming.
THE CONSTANTINES at the Phoenix, Rating: NNNN
Though their tour’s just started, the Constantines' Thursday-night show at the Phoenix still felt like a homecoming. The place was packed with rabid Cons fans who weren’t afraid to show their adulation, even when the group played unfamiliar songs from their recently released disc, Kensington Heights.
Most of the set was devoted to the new songs – Million Star Hotel and Shower Of Stones were especially memorable – but old tracks like Hyacinth Blues, from the band’s 2001 debut disc, pushed the energy to another level. At the end, the band launched into a totally authentic version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. It was pretty funny at first, but they weren’t kidding. If anything, the track fit perfectly into the band’s set of gritty rock ’n’ roll. Let’s hope they come home again soon.