Gaslight Anthem’s Alex Rosamilia (left), Brian Fallon and Alex Levine upstaged everyone at the Sound Academy Friday.
Thu, Oct 2
JAY REATARD at Wrongbar Rating: NNN
Although polo-shirt-friendly Paul Weller would likely be Fred Perry's choice for musician-spokesmodel, if the celebrated Modfather is too busy to appear at an invitation-only party at the Wrongbar, why not Memphis punk renegade Jay Reatard?
He might seem like an odd choice, since the aggressive punk rock noise Reatard and his sloppy garage crew favour isn't what jumps to mind when thinking casual loungewear. Perhaps Fred Perry is rebranding: goodbye, snooty continental refinement; hello, low-rent Southern hostility!
As for the crowd, the sizable turnout was a lot more stylishly attired and standoffish than the riotous hooligans usually drawn to Reatard's over-amped hoedowns.
Reatard was obviously determined to put on a full performance regardless and blasted one scorcher after another in rapid-fire succession, pausing only to call out the next number before plowing ahead. He remained crouched over his Gibson Flying V for the entire 35-minute barrage, and only raised his head to say, "The equipment is shit." Reatard will be back to do it all over again at Sneaky
Dee's October 16.
Fri, Oct 3
GASLIGHT ANTHEM with ALKALINE TRIO, THRICE and RISE AGAINST at Sound Academy Rating: NNN
There's something confusing about Brian Fallon's persona. The Jersey-born frontman of punk-edged heartland rockers Gaslight Anthem has been so strongly influenced by Springsteen, it's impossible not to imagine the Boss as you watch him. From the warm and raspy vocals and hard strums on his Telecaster right down to the way Fallon raises his shoulders and looks sideways before a chord change, you half expect Clarence Clemons to come out for a sax solo.
But it works. Gaslight lit up the Sound Academy - their Toronto debut - with heart, spirit and a spontaneity that upstaged three following bands.
None more so than Thrice, who played nine tuneless variations of one emo-metal song before giving way to Chicago's Alkaline Trio, whose songs - once endearingly sloppy, goth-tinged tales of loserdom with killer melodic hooks - are now played with little passion.
That's something you'd expect political headliners Rise Against to provide, but they suffer from the Rage Against the Machine effect, a "message" with no impact on their rock-hungry audience. It's hard to feel much dissidence from a band peacocking under a stage-lighting rig that rivals KISS's.
Sat, Oct 4
CHAD VANGAALEN at El Mocambo Rating: NNN
Chad VanGaalen faced three challenges at his recent Toronto show: a last-minute venue change, an early start time due to Nuit Blanche and a Steinberger guitar that refused to stay in tune. But the El Mo was packed when he ambled onstage just after 9 pm, and he approached his tuning problems with humour: "I stopped apologizing for this guitar three shows ago."
Turning down requests for songs from 2006's amazing Skelliconnection, the Calgary indie folkie and his three-piece band used accordion, brushes, banjo, harp and harmony to recreate his haunting new album, Soft Airplane, which lacks the former's instant appeal.
We also got two Skelli songs, an obscure Eno cover and, during the encore, some tuneless Thurston Moore. The show never quite hit its stride, possibly due to the choppy slow-fast-slow effect of the improvised set list. Or maybe it was the Steinberger after all.
Mon, Oct 6
ROBIN THICKE at the Kool Haus Rating: NNNN
I've been hesitant to admit liking Robin Thicke's whiteboy falsetto, but since Lil Wayne stamped his ghetto pass on the slow-burning gem Shooter, it's all good now. Five-hundred hopeless romantics at Kool Haus agreed, and gushed appreciation for Thicke's revue, featuring a razor-sharp six-piece band.
"Y'all know I'm half Canadian, right? The good half!" said Thicke, son of Growing Pains' Alan Thicke. Moving from show-stopping frontman to ivory-tickler to dancing machine with ease, he delivered a stellar show smartly balancing old and new material. He even pulled off a suave version of his dad's act, drinking cognac between breaths on a slow jam.
The solos in Dreamworld were executed brilliantly and Lost Without You was the perfect climax. D'Angelo's Brown Sugar and Al Green's Let's Stay Together gave that special encore afterglow. Justin Timberlake, eat your heart out.