Norah Jones, July 3
The crowd of couples sat in rapt silence as Norah Jones began softly cooing through the first of two sold-out Massey Hall gigs. The only person who didn't seem completely focused on the stage was Jones herself. Gazing blankly into space while absently delivering her consistently blue, Nyroesque soul ballads at the piano, the Grammy-grabbing wunderkind seemed completely disengaged. Midway through the 90-minute set, Jones stumbled over one of her numerous Middle Eastern throw rugs while sleepwalking across the stage and dropped her remote monitor box. "For some reason I always feel awkward in Canada," she noted with an embarrassed grin.
She treated fans to a few new, slightly more upbeat than usual songs that have a stronger groove orientation. When someone shouted, "When's the new album out?" Jones giggled, "When we're finished recording it." She added that it will likely appear early in the new year. "February, maybe... unless we hate it."
Celebrate Toronto, July 6
There's something about daytime city summer festivals that makes everything seem kind of gross and wholesome all at the same time. Gross because cities are gross, especially Dundas Square. And wholesome because it's all just so Bermuda shorts.
And there we were, celebrating Toronto! The city of Bermuda shorts. And sport sandals. Did I mention sport sandals?
Pilate 's and By Divine Right 's laid-back, feel-good, old-school post-grunge rock for grown-ups fit in perfectly with the frolicking children (one of whom By Divine Right even brought up onstage: so cute) and summer sunshine.
The less peppy Dears kept the celebration going. Murray Lightburn , already a slightly awkward presence onstage, is one of the best songwriters to emerge recently in Canada. Their pop noir, however, requires a little more attention than can be whipped up in the stinky surroundings of Dundas Square. They're better enjoyed under a canopy of stars long after the sun has safely gone to rest behind Mississauga.
Ben Harper, June 30
The sound during Jack Johnson 's set opening for Ben Harper was terrible, but the sold-out Amphitheatre crowd didn't mind one bit. The entire audience hung onto every acoustic note he plucked, helping him out by singing along with each song from his two albums. Harper and his merry band of Innocent Criminals opened with their trademark Glory & Consequence. Confident and super-tight, they played all the hits, working songs from Harper's latest Diamonds On The Inside into the mix and letting bassist Juan Nelson loose to solo on and on. One of the best live acts on the road today. Soledad Brothers, July 3 Detroit bluesabilly hipsters the Soledad Brothers put on a ferocious display Thursday at he Horseshoe . The Soledads play a whacked-out version of the blues, closer to Captain Beefheart than anything from the Delta. Guitarist Oliver Henry picked up the saxophone and wailed away while drummer Ben Swank pounded wildly on the skins. Lead singer/guitarist Johnny Walker was in top form, leading the band through numbers from their first two albums as well as their forthcoming release, Voice Of Treason. Boston female duo Mr. Airplane Man won over the crowd with a slight variation on the White Stripes theme. Despite using only drums and guitar, they produced a surprisingly full and powerful sound. It was a nice touch for the Soledads to have Mr. Airplane Man join in for their moving encore of the traditional hymn Jesus On The Mainline.