Wed, May 28
RILO KILEY at the Phoenix Rating: NNN
A few songs into Rilo Kiley’s set at the Phoenix, their well-oiled performance came to a screeching halt when someone shouted a critical remark during a between-song lull.
“Did you just say our album sucked?” asked guitarist Blake Sennett, clearly taken aback.
After a few seconds spent dreaming up a kickass retort, Sennett fired back, “Well, let’s hear your album.” Ouch. Not the sort of snappy response that devestates hecklers, but then again, Rilo Kiley haven’t had to deal with too many hostile indie rock audiences. Their crowd is too busy breathing heavy sighs over singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis to even consider hollering anything but praise and marriage proposals.
And whether the band members like it or not, Rilo Kiley is now the Jenny Lewis Show, with Sennett and the others in support roles. To their credit, they all realize the situation and make the best of it onstage with a focused and well-paced performance that wisely keeps their sweet-voiced main attraction in the spotlight throughout the evening.
So there are no extended drum solos from Jason Boesel, bassist Pierre De Reeder doesn’t get to sing his favourite Bright Eyes tune, and guitarist Sennett stays put stage right while Lewis croons to captivating effect on the slow-dance ballads when not bouncing around with the uptempo swingers from 2007’s audience-splitting Under The Blacklight album. Other than that one minor rough spot, it all went smoothly, according to plan.
Thu, May 29
MATTHEW GOOD AND HIS BAND at Massey Hall Rating: NN
As a fan of the Matthew Good Band, I went in hoping to hear some of my old favourites played at Toronto’s best-sounding venue. To my dismay, half the songs performed were culled from Good’s two weakest (and most recent) solo releases. All we got from the MGB days were the predictable mega-hits, with the exception of Giant, which sounded great. Also, he played nothing off his two best records, 1995’s Last Of The Ghetto Astronauts and the chronically underrated Audio Of Being.
Billed as Matthew Good and His Band, Good’s new backing outfit smacked of the New Coke, an inferior replacement for a classic formula. On top of that, his newer tunes, almost all of which dial down the BPMs to boring Switchfoot ballad territory, sadly fell flat, but were still peppered with frustrating moments where his skill for writing dark, anti-pop rock hooks crept through. He’s by no means in Raine Maida territory yet, but I’m afraid that’s where this could be heading.
Fri, May 30
M83 at the Mod Club Rating: NNN
Lucky for M83, the Mod Club has enough strobes, green lasers and other arena lighting fixtures to create the kind of live atmosphere the French shoegazers need. Head cheese Anthony Gonzalez takes a slow-build approach; he and co-vocalist Morgan Kibby concocted elongated sessions of dreamy synthesizer rock, giving the audience little to connect with visually but plenty to absorb aurally amidst the flickering lights.
Unless your band is called Depeche Mode, this is a difficult style to pull off live, and as with his new album, Saturdays = Youth, Gonzalez is much more engaging on the kind of 80s melodramatic pop he goes in for on songs like Graveyard Girl or Kim & Jessie, both of which gave the packed Mod Club something they could raise their arms to. Midway in, the energy level rose when Gonzalez began trotting out selections from Before The Dawn Heals Us, with Moonchild getting a particularly strong reception. Near the end, Kibby and Gonzalez looked animated and felt the buzz of the increasingly raucous crowd, which had awakened from its earlier stupor. If only he hadn’t taken 40 minutes to get there.