Jeremy Schmidt (left) and Amber Webber contributed to Black Mountain’s cool stage chemistry at the Opera House Saturday night.
Thu, Sep 25
MY BLOODY VALENTINE at Kool Haus Rating: NNNNN
Thinking back on my wasted life spent at concerts, gigs, shows, whatever, I don't recall ever being given a complimentary pair of earplugs upon arrival. My Bloody Valentine's reputation for ear-destruction is legend, but I always thought the dangers had been greatly inflated. However, when security forced those rubber plugs onto us like vaccination shots, I knew it wasn't myth.
This long-drooled-over reunion by shoegaze's godfathers arrived with the dreamy chords to I Only Said. Kevin Shields's over-amplified, effects-laden guitar, combined with his signature "glide" sound (sustained tremolo bar while strumming), created a dizzying yet transfixing effect. Both ghostly and sonically powerful, it's like a guitar going in reverse. Meanwhile, the stoic and comely Bilinda Butcher delivered her whispery vocals like soft bombs on favourites Only Shallow and Soon.
The show's coda - affectionately dubbed "the holocaust segment" - is where earplugs go from being band-aids to life support. The 15-minute wall of brain-busting torrential noise was so devastating, I realized those free plugs weren't so much for the protection of our health as for the prevention of lawsuits.
Still, even if you did get tinnitus from this show, I imagine you'd wear it like a badge of honour.
Sat, Sep 27
BLACK MOUNTAIN at the Opera House Rating: NNNN
BC-based psych/prog rockers Black Mountain certainly deserved the Polaris Prize (they lost to Caribou on Monday) if this live performance is any indication. The quintet translated every groove, organ flourish and reverb-soaked guitar note in a performance that managed to better the spacey vibe their records offer, making it clear just how good their chemistry now is.
They played through the majority of their latest with a cool confidence, thanks in part to co-lead singer Stephen McBean's ability to look on the verge of being possessed, while vocalist Amber Webber shuffled about lazily, opting to focus on her haunting and commanding vibrato, which also upped the intensity factor. With an only decent light show, the band had to rely on a solid performance to keep the crowd - initially a little ho-hum after a sleepy set by openers Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter - engaged. But that took all of about a song to do.
THE WATCHMEN at the Horseshoe Rating: NNNN
A reunion by Winnipeg's the Watchmen isn't like KISS reforming or the Police hitting the road after 24 years apart, but for the few hundred fans at the two sold-out shows at the Horseshoe, seeing their favourite 90s Canrock band play together again was just as sweet.
Though the foursome were a little rusty - Danny Greaves's usually pristine voice was off-key a few times, and he missed a lyric here and there - for the most part the guys were still as solid as when they broke up in 2001.
For nearly two hours, they barrelled through the hits from all five of their discs, playing Boneyard Tree, Run And Hide and Stereo, plus a few more obscure tracks like I'm Still Gone from McLaren Furnace Room.
While it was great to see the band's high-energy performance one more time, these guys aren't an arena-filling act, so keeping their reunion to a few one-off shows here and there is probably their best bet.
Sun, Sep 28
JANET JACKSON with LL COOL J at Air Canada Centre Rating: NNNN
Still on auto-pilot from his Ice Cream Fest show, LL Cool J used the same two DJs, tricks (saying "Now everybody screeeeam" a hundred times) and treats (roses, ladies?) as last time. He even professed, "It's been a long time, Toronto," though he was here two months ago! Meh. Delivering a dozen-plus hits from his immense catalogue while flexing his ripped physique satisfied the female-friendly audience. And his lip-lick/crotch-grab combination would make R. Kelly proud.
Janet Jackson was a whole other experience. Nearly matching Kanye West's elaborate stage presentation, she proved she has what it takes to keep the Beyoncés and Ciaras studying hard. She alternated between dance-heavy lip-synching segments and authentic acoustic ballads, complete with 10 outfit changes ranging from sailor suits to tribal African garments to Michael Jackson-style mutated-moonwalker monstrosities.
Yet her two-hour 25-year-spanning spectacle worked. Videotaped guest spots with Q-Tip, Nelly, JD and Dave Navarro added to the show, and one lucky man got the French kiss of his life in the entertaining NC-17 dominatrix segment. Her superfan, strapped into a full-body harness and transformed into a lusty boy-toy, inspired envy. Then the intense choreography of Rhythm Nation took it back to 1989. Her encore was short but sweet, and she left few favourites untouched. And, yes, she did do the dancing chair sequence. Perfectly.