There was no shortage of grand guitar wank from Judas Priest’s K.K. Downing (left) to accompany Rob Halford’s hellraising howl at Molson Amphitheatre Wednesday night.
Tue, Aug 12
EDDIE VEDDER at Massey Hall Rating: NNNNN
Whether you like Pearl Jam or not, there's no denying that the legendary Seattle act puts on an incredible show. So, when Eddie Vedder announced that he was playing an intimate solo gig at Massey Hall, it was a sure bet that this performance would sell out fast.
Not only did tickets go quicker than sales of Ten, but the revered Toronto venue was packed with thousands of rabid, screaming fans who yelled out requests, jokes and at least one "Take your shirt off." While all this annoyed a number of people - including Vedder - the back-and-forth banter between the artist and his devotees was a nice addition to an incredible concert.
On the first evening of his two-night stand, Vedder ran through a number of Pearl Jam tunes, including I Am Mine, Porch and Driftin', some songs off the Into The Wild soundtrack and a few covers, including Daniel Johnston's Walking The Cow. For the most part, the performance was laid-back and intimate - he told everyone to sit down before he began - but it was raucous set closer Hard Sun, which saw Vedder stand up for the first time, that stole the show.
Wed, Aug 13
JUDAS PRIEST and HEAVEN and HELL at the Molson Amphitheatre Rating: NNN
Smoke-breathing gargoyles, cemetery wall backdrop and black chain-link fence draped against a wall of custom amplifiers - the stage was set for Heaven and Hell. With such props, you could only assume there'd be more of the latter. This is essentially Dio-era Black Sabbath (minus Bill Ward), their name both referencing a 1980 studio album and ensuring that you won't expect to see Ozzy. They're protecting the Sabbath brand, so to speak.
Ronnie James Dio is not to be undervalued, mind you. He's the consummate professional, devil-horning at appropriate moments (which is always), telling us we're the best fans in the world, making us feel as though we'd insisted on their getting back together. "Here's a song from an album that's finally getting its due - Dehumanizer," he bellowed.
Judas Priest are no nostalgia act. At least not in their minds. They just released a concept double album about Nostradamus. Unfortunately, they chose to open with a selection from it (Dawn Of Creation/Prophecy). That killed early momentum, but from there it got more familiar - songs about Breaking The Law, going on Hell Patrol and being Hell Bent For Leather, all as towering metal god Rob Halford stalked the stage in platforms and guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton duelled endlessly, their solos scorching (though routinely inserted into) each song.
British metal delivered workmanlike for Priest's defenders of the faith.
Fri, Aug 15
RADIOHEAD at Molson Amphitheatre Rating: NNNNN
Starting with 15 Steps, the opener of their latest masterpiece, In Rainbows, Radiohead proceeded to play the nine other cuts off that record, interspersed with old hits like Street Spirit and Airbag, to a beyond-sold-out crowd.
Weirdo frontman Thom Yorke - who along with drummer Phil Selway appeared visibly impressed by the walls of wild applause that bookended each song - stuck to the "less talk, more rock" rule, favouring his paranoid falsetto and pitch-perfect vocal pyrotechnics to meaningless stage banter.
While the audience erupted at the first hint of spine-tingling favourites Idioteque and Climbing Up The Walls, new classics-in-the-making Jigsaw Falling Into Place and the absolutely haunting All I Need were recognized and welcomed just as enthusiastically.
Other highlights included single-worthy 90s B-side Talk Show Host and the fitting closer Everything In Its Right Place.
Back at the turn of the century, music critics and fans anxiously wondered who would turn out to be this decade's Radiohead. The answer, apparently, is Radiohead.
Sun, Aug 17
BAJOFONDO at the Mod Club Rating: NNNN
Bajofondo band leader Gustavo Santaolalla made light of the press's recent attempts to classify the music made by this progressive nine-piece from Argentina and Uruguay. "We're not sure what this music is... but if you enjoy it, that's all that matters," he quipped.
Spanning borders, Bajofondo (the name roughly translates to "below the surface") also defy genres, forging a unique, grandiose sound from a pleasing mix of classical bandoneón, violin, rock guitar, stand-up bass, DJ scratching, electronic beats and a live drummer.
Skilled musicians through and through, the members of Bajofondo also excelled at showmanship, rocking the receptive crowd during dance-clubby buildups, and then reducing the packed Mod Club to pin-drop silence during a mellow number. By the time they finished their set, the whole venue was dancing, audience members mixing with band members onstage and older couples tangoing near the merch table at the back.