Born Ruffians’ Mitch Deroisier (left) and Luke Lalonde thrilled the Opera House crowd Saturday night.
Wed, Oct 29
FEIST at the Rivoli Rating: NNN
Feist surprised Queen West with a secret gig at the Rivoli Wednesday.
Leslie Feist long ago outgrew the Toronto club scene where she honed her solo career, but last week she revisited her Queen West roots with an unannounced secret show at her old haunt the Rivoli.
More of a songwriters circle than a concert, the show featured Hayden, Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke, some members of Feist's band (Jay Baird, Afie Jurvanen, Bob Kemmis) and Doug Paisley, all of whom took turns showcasing their songs. This was mildly disappointing for those who had hoped for a full set from her, but given how much more intimate this was than the ACC, we were willing to take what we could get. Besides, it was a treat to hear her perform the songs solo; her strong writing is sometimes overshadowed by the production on the recorded versions.
DAVID BYRNE at Massey Hall Rating: NNNNN
The dudes at the back of Massey Hall screaming "Psycho Killer!" obviously missed the memo. The show's title, Songs Of David Bryne and Brian Eno, made it pretty clear that the former Talking Heads frontman would only be revisiting material that both he and Eno had worked on.
Byrne was dressed in white and aided by three backup singers, two percussionists, a keyboard player and a bassist. Also on hand were three dancers who interpreted Byrne's often jittery, paranoid lyrics with synchronized mechanical movements and choreographed glides on rolling office chairs. While his mixed bag of new material was greeted with applause, virtually everyone was there for some Talking Heads nostalgia. Playing new wave classics like Heaven and Life During Wartime from Fear Of Music, and Crosseyed And Painless and The Great Curve from Remain In Light, Byrne and his super-tight band were about as good as anything shy of a Talking Heads reunion could get. Three encores, including one non-Eno bonus track (Burning Down The House), earned Bryne multiple standing
SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS at the Guvernment Rating: NNN
Since funk soul sister Sharon Jones has a new recording with the Dap-Kings essentially finished, there were expectations that she'd preview some of that material. Unfortunately, Jones played it safe with the same songs, segues and audience-participation bits she's used for nearly two years.
The whole routine ran like clockwork, and the packed college crowd ate it up. Certainly, the powerful-voiced Jones is a skilful entertainer and has had ample time to figure out what works, right down to when she should kick off her heels and boogaloo. But what once seemed spontaneous and exciting now comes off as a series of carefully scripted gimmicks.
A last-minute addition to the bill, the Menahan Street Band were surprisingly tight for a studio concoction of Dap-Kings guitarist Thomas Brenneck, but the instrumental soul ensemble sounded like a rhythm section in search of a focal point. The missing element was made clear when Dap-Kings saxophonist Neal Sugarman joined the band onstage for a jazz flute feature and got the biggest ovation.
Sat, Nov 1
BORN RUFFIANS at the Opera House Rating: NNNN
After seeing the Born Ruffians play the relatively tiny Tiger Bar only 10 months ago, I was curious to see if they could pack a larger venue. Credit incessant touring (this show was a homecoming of sorts, since the band has been on the road nearly all fall) and the scads of positive buzz surrounding their debut LP, Red, Yellow & Blue for packing the place.
The Ruffians' rhythm section (Mitch DeRosier on bass, Steven Hamelin on drums) was super-tight and never let a swell of audience energy pass without landing a massive, coordinated hit or a cool rhythm change. The Ruffians are definitely better when they're rocking their more straightforward indie fare, but even their noodly, experimental songs have redeeming hooks or rock-out sections. The show ended when the unruly crowd finally spilled onto the stage. While the band looked more than happy to carry on this way, scrambling security guards looked pissed and turned the house lights on just as soon as the song was finished.