Just minutes into his election-themed show, El Vez and Lisa Maria were ready for the first of many costume changes at the Horseshoe Saturday night.
Tue, Aug 5
THE GO! TEAM and CSS at the Phoenix Rating: NNN
In what appears to be a competition for the bounciest, most technicolour female-fronted sextet in pop, CSS and the Go! Team have been swapping nightly headliner/support slots across North America. Toronto was CSS's turn to play second fiddle, but, let's face it, you can't keep a LoveFoxxx catsuit down. (This evening's was a shiny grey affair featuring a moustachioed grin drawn on her belly and some strategically placed nostrils).
The all-ages crowd made for a curious dynamic, with the notoriously boozy Brazilians playing hits like Alcohol to a crowd of sober teens. But even the surly fenced-in drinkers at the back joined in for Lovefoxxx's now familiar arm aerobic routine. And if new songs like Left Behind suggest a moodier, jaded CSS, it didn't show. This was glitter guns at dawn.
Someone should have told the Go! Team to take advantage of the buzz. By the time their visibly pissed-off roadies gave the all clear - 40 minutes later - the saccharine-fuelled frenzy had fizzled. Even the chirpy chanting of hip-hop vixen Ninja couldn't conceal guitarist and head honcho Ian Parton's foul mood. CSS 1, the Go! Team nil.
Sat, Aug 9
WOLF PARADE at Kool Haus Rating: NNNN
Forget those tired rock clichés about how the show would have been so much better at a smaller venue. Wolf Parade deserve a big round of applause for making the cavernous Kool Haus feel and sound like an intimate club gig.
Taking the stage to thunderous applause and opening with their jittery classic You Are A Runner And I Am My Father's Son, the Montreal five-piece seemed upbeat and relaxed, probably because this show was the final date of their lengthy tour.
Following with tracks Language City and An Animal In Your Care, both off their latest disc, the entire band was airtight and loud as hell as sometimes rival singers Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner yelped and growled their trademark indie vox to near-album perfection. Highlights included future single Fine Young Cannibals, which ended with an ear-shredding wall of noise, and their ringing encore performance of I'll Believe In Anything. It's not often that I've left the Kool Haus so satisfied.
EL VEZ at the Horseshoe Rating: NNNN
This being a U.S. election year, Elvis-impersonating performance artist Robert Lopez has reactivated his El Vez For Prez show, updated with loads of goodbye-Dubya jabs woven into the star-spangled fabric of his campy campaign fiesta.
On paper at least, his politically tweaked multi-song mashups, medleys and nutty interpolations might seem like some bizarre hybrid of Weird Al Yankovic and Mark Russell in a tiger-print jumpsuit. But Lopez is a much more charismatic performer than either.
Skilfully accompanied by his well-drilled Memphis Mariachis band and his El Vettes cheerleading backing vocalists Lisa Maria and Pricillita, the purported presidential candidate put on a dazzling display packed with insightful social commentary.
Needless to say, the elaborate Ike & Tina Revue-style production, complete with frequent costume changes, went far beyond mere Elvis worship over the course of the two-hour presentation. He did manage to squeeze in a couple of old favourites from the King - You Ain't Nothing But A Chihuahua (Hound Dog), En El Barrio (In The Ghetto) and Immigration Time (Suspicious Minds) - all of which were cleverly retooled to reinforce his main message that America is essentially good but run by bad people.
If Lopez only had the foresight to record and release the songs from the El Vez For Prez production prior to taking the show on the road, he would likely be playing to sold-out crowds at larger venues rather than a half-filled Horseshoe on a Saturday night.