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Archive for the ‘Live at Massey Hall’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: EMILY HAINES AND THE SOFT SKELETON-Live at Massey Hall (December 5, 2017).

I really like Metric a lot.  They hit all the poppy sweet spots that I like with enough rough edges to keep them interesting.

I had heard a song from Haines’ Soft Skeleton album and really liked it–the bass line outstanding.  When this tour came to Philly I conisdered going but ultimately didn’t.  So I’m glad I get to see an abbreviated version of it here from Massey Hall.

This is also the final show (I assume) of the fifth season of Live at Massey Hall as the historic venue now undergoes two years of renovations!

Haines says that Massey Hall is the place that when you’re growing up on Neil Young that you dream of playing someday. She did two nights with metric in 2010 and now to do it solo is an incredible honor.

The show starts with chirping birds and Emily walking around the stage which looks made up like a bedroom.  She takes off her coat, puts on a dressing gown and a sleep mask and lays down on a “bed.”

An alarm goes off and when she shuts it off, a piano melody starts with backing vocals.  It’s the song “Planets,” and she lays down on the bed and sings the lyrics.  The pretty piano melody and swelling backing voices are lovely.  Then she brushes her teeth and a voice (hers?) starts talking to her.  What are you doing here?  Did you sleep at all?

What revelation are you after?  Do you want to go back or are you scared you never left?  This is an introduction to “Nihilist Abyss.”  For this song, she plays the piano and sings.  As the song ends the voice returns, calling “Emily” (echoing) “come back now its time to come back.  You’ve got to get dressed, you have to play a show tonight.  You booked a tour for some reason and you’re on it now….”

“Put on your jacket…”  She stomps around the stage as the rest of the band comes out–Jimmy Shaw, guitar; Sam Goldberg, bass; Justin Peroff, drums (all of whom were in Broken Social Scene, which Haines performed in as well).  She sits at the piano and a robotic voice introduces “Emily Haines and The Soft Skeleton.”

“Our Hell” has  thumping drums and bass as washes of guitars flood in while Haines plays piano and sings.   It’s a dramatic change from the first songs, but not as immediate or poppy as Metric.

“Detective Daughter” is interrupted by her saying that this record and band are a different state of mind than metric–challenging in a different way.  The music and her role is to push herself to the threshold of emotion without cracking.  “It’s raw strong and real.”  There’s more intense guitar from Shaw (who has worked with her on nearly everything she’s done).

“Minefield of Memory” has a scratchy guitar playing a rhythm with the drums, while “Legend of the Wild Horse” has the biggest chorus yet.

“Doctor Blind” has a woozy da da da da middle section along with the echoing distorted guitars.

The set ends with “Fatal Gift,” the song that I love from this album. It starts with a slow piano but after a few minutes the song gets bigger and louder and that bass line is just a knockout.  I don’t rally like the that she repeats over and over “you own it and it owns you,” as it takes away from the music.  But this section of the song is so good the music is intense and wonderful.

I’m not disappointed that i didn’t see this live, although it sounds like an interesting theatrical experience (the venue is usually standing but for this show seats were being sold).

Over the credits she comments that now “because of technology people can use algorithms to pander and give the people what they want a feeling of pandering.  But what I have to offer is a glimpse of someone attempting to access their authentic self.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] “The Five Wounds”

This story surprised me right from the outset with the line “This year Amadeo Padilla is Jesus.”  There’s a few ways that could be taken and I was wrong about all of them.  The closest I came was thinking that Amadeo was a boy in a school play.

But no, Amadeo is a 33 year old man and being Jesus is very real.

People in the village are saying that Amadeo is the best Jesus they’ve had in years.  People are lining up to peek through the chain link fence and watch Amadeo.  He has build his cross out of heavy oak, not pine, and he’s even thinking of adding more nails to make it heavier.

But whats so surpring is that Amdeo is pockmarked and bad-toothed and worse.  If you name the sin, he’s done it: gluttony, sloth, fucked a second cousin on the dark bleachers at the high school.

Amadeo is working so hard at his cross that he is sweating–typically he only ever sweats when he eats and drinks too much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BECKINGHAM-Live at Massey Hall (December 5, 2017).

I don’t know Beckingham or his main band Hey Ocean.

Beckingham says that he and Ashleigh Ball from the Hey Ocean started playing together in their early 20s.  They met Dave and formed Hey Ocean and it took off in a surprising way.

He’d always wanted to do something solo but felt he wasn’t ready and then they took time from Hey Ocean and worked on it.  But he never expected to play Massey Hall.

The show begins with “Explosion” which has a sweet vocal line and a very friendly sound with strings.  As he starts “Window Frame” they interrupt it with an interview in which he says that Hey Ocean is more around Ashleigh and her vocals while the solo stuff is more personal.  He feels a lot more exposed physically as well as with the material.

Adi’s Song is a quiet powerful ballad

Late in the evening
She starts to cry
She’d been down on her luck since summer now she’s stuck
In the longest ever winter of her life

She called the doctor
Asking for pills
To make it all seem far away like the stars in outer space
She says the feelings doesn’t hurt, she says it kills

And the salt in her tears carves a line down her cheeks
So when the drops reach her mouth, well you’ll almost believe she was smiling

Just when the light hits it right

During “Slowly” he gets the crowd to sing along “don’t it take the words from you sometimes.”

The final two songs are his biggest: “Soldier” and “Forest.”  His music is quite consistent–pretty and folkie without a lot of drama.  But these last two songs have something extra.  The bridge in “Soldier” bombs overhead / trying my best to find you / I was blind and deaf is really powerful with the strings.  “Forest” has a distinctive catchy melody up front, which a lot of these songs don’t.

He’s joined by Mike Rosen on the keyboards and a small string section Michelle Farhermann (cello) Rachael Cardiello (viola) and Kelly LeFaive (violin) and he thanks them for pulling this all together in a few days time.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Stuff”

“Stuff” is a terrible name for a story.  But this story is pretty much full of stuff, so maybe it does work here.

I’m not really sure what happened to this story because it started out so linear and interesting (a little weird, yes, but interesting) and then it turned into something else–much more weird.

Henry was in the doctor’s office.  His own doctor was not there, so he was seeing a new doctor.  This new doctor told Henry that he had lung cancer and would die soon.

Henry talked about the cigarettes he smokes–called the work sticks because they help him write. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANDY SHAUF-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I know Andy Shauf from a Tiny Desk Concert.  I was fascinated then and am now by his long hair, soft-spoken voice and astonishing lack of movement in his body and mouth when he sings.

The record he is touring here is 2016’s The Party which propelled him onto bigger stages, including Massey Hall.  He says in his characteristically quiet way

Every stage is a little different.  I’m a big fan of that Neil Young record.  That was here.  That was here (smiles).

“Twist My Ankle” starts the show with his gentle guitar strums.  Twin clarinets (Daniel Pencer and Karen Ng) propel this song slowly forward.  It a wonderful melody.  Then Shauf starts singing with his unique vocal patterns.  I can’t figure out what it is about the way he sings, but the way he enunciates words is so peculiar.

Later he says that there was one interview when I said The Party isn’t a concept album, and that has followed him around.  It totally is a concept album, but I was thinking more of Mr Roboto or something.  The whole album is about a party with the common theme of humiliation and shame.  People are just making mistakes while drinking at a party–trying to navigate social situations.

“Twist My Ankle” ends with the line, “everybody’s laughing at me I wish I’d just stayed home.”

“You’re Out Wasting” has a simple, repetitive but very alluring guitar melody.  It’s a wonderfully catchy song about wasting time with the right guy.

“Quite Like You” is a bit more upbeat and catchy–the crowd reacts very warmly to it.   but again the lyrics are pretty dark.  It’s about a guy trying to pick up his friend’s girlfriend.

“Early to the Party” is a mellow song with wonderful instrumental interludes–the horns really brighten the song.  This is one of many places where his enunciation is so strange.  Especially since he sings so quietly: “tying you in nawts.”

“The Word in You” has an upbeat piano melody which his vocals follow perfectly. He says it’s exciting playing with strings and clarinets.  A lot of parts are six voices and now we have six voices–it makes the songs more exciting to play.  A lot of time you get sick of playing the same songs every night but this time the shows have gotten a little bit bigger so you can feel a different energy when people are excited to hear a song rather than trying to introduce your songs to people.

People respond loudly to “My Dear Helen.”  This song is just him on the guitar, the starkness really helps you to focus on the words.  It’s a letter to an old friend in which an old man confesses something terrible.

For the final song, “The Magician everyone comes back.  The addition of bass clarinet (Michael Sachs) is wonderful.  There’s pizzicato strings that turn into big swells from Emily Hau and Leslie Ting (violins) and Moira Burke (viola).  The doo doo doo doo part is really catchy.  The song builds and builds and is the most rocking thing with Olivier Fairfield’s drums really coming forward.  Colin Nealis on keyboards and Josh Daignault on bass flesh out this excellent set ender.

[READ: July 24, 2017] “Everything is Far From Here”

This story serves as an unrelenting indictment against immigration polices.

It opens with a woman having arrived, at last.  She is bruised and sunburnt, covered in birds and bugs and worn out.  She is told to sleep, but she cannot for she is awaiting her son.  She had been separated from him a few days ago being told there were too many of them.

She is finally able to ask someone where her son is.  The guard speaks Spanish and tells her about the family unit.  But among the children, her son is not there.   But one woman tells her that her own son arrived a while week after she did.

She decides to wait.  They let her store her clothes, her broken leather sandals, a plastic comb, and elastic hair band.  They take her pocketknife (no weapons) a sleeve of cookies (no food) and a tin of Vaseline (no reason). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENNIFER CASTLE-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I didn’t think I knew Jennifer Castle, but I see that she has appeared as a guest singer on a whole bunch of records by artists that I know: Eric Chenaux, Bry Webb, Constantines and Fucked Up.

She has an unusual voice–soaring, delicate and whispery with a slight warble and yet you know she could belt out if she wanted to.

She starts the show saying Toronto has incredible beautiful old buildings and its rare these days to go inside one.  Inside Massey Hall it’s lit up to be another member of the band and to be part of the show.

I found the music to be incredibly spare–too spare in fact.  It is primarily piano and her vocals (with backing singers), but the piano (Jonathan Adjemian) is not a primary instrument, it is simply playing chords for her to sing over.  The sparseness was a little disconcerting.  But the backing vocalists (Victoria Cheeong and Isla Craig) are stellar–they really add a lot to the music and their voices soar in their own right.

But I think that sparseness allows her lyrics to really come through.  “Like a Gun” has the lyric “he was lik e gun [hah, from lovely backing vocalists] he was always going off.”

“Nature” has even better lyrics

Despite all my feelings of life parallel
Nature is happening without my goodwill
I called my friend up and she said it still
Happens to you even when you are ill

and ends with this interesting conceit

I lift my skirt for the economy

“Texas” is played on guitar with a very catchy “hoo hoo hoo hoo” clap-along.

I go down to Texas
To kiss my grandmother goodbye
She forgets things
But when I look her in the eye
I see my father
And he’s been gone so very long
In the name of time travel
Help him to hear to my little song

Jennifer plays electric guitar on “Truth is the Freshest Fruit” which changes the whole dynamic of her songs.  She plays guitar with piano accompaniment on “Sailing Away.”

She is the first person to mention the renovations Massey Hall is currently undergoing:

I know that Massey is going to go through a great big change but it feels good to play while the history is still on the paint.

The final song is absolutely wonderful.  She says she wrote “Please Take Me (I’m Broken)” because she knew they were coming to Massey and it celebrates the school of Greek mythology

The backing vocalists sing a verse by themselves and they sound great.  I love the chorus

Please take me cause something don’t seem right; something don’t compute.  I don’t belong here.
Please take me I’m broken;  I’ve woken up and I should be dreaming.
Please take me back to those other realms they seem much kinder on a dreamer like me.
I’ve always looked up to those ancient Greek stories.
I love the thrill of the scale; I like the the roll of the chorus.

A thoughtful and unique performer.

[READ: July 17, 2018] “Now More Than Ever”

I  feel like Zadie Smith’s recent stories have been exploring a new style for her, a more “in the present” kind of vibe.  This story has meta-elements and is very much an of the moment piece.  It seems to address current hot button issues and her own inability to fully wrap her head around them.

It begins: “There is an urge to be good. To be seen to be good. To be seen.  Also to be.”

This is what she told Mary.  She also told Mary that no one is called Marty these days.  “Could you get the hell out of here?”  So Mary left.  Then Scout came by–a great improvement.

Scout is active and alert on all platforms. She;s usually no later than the 300th person to see something.  The narrator was “the ten million two hundred and sixth person to see that thing.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Live at Massey Hall (October 4, 2017).

Japandroids are one of the most energetic bands around.  Is that because there are only two of them and they need to do even more?

Well, whatever the case, they rock Massey Hall.

They are playing four nights in a row at Boot & Saddle in Philly in a couple of weeks.  The shows sold out almost instantly, but I got a ticket for the second night.  And this video has gotten me really psyched to see them again.

The show opens with David Prowse, the drummer talking about Massey Hall.  It’s by far the most legendary venue in all of Canada.  There’s a lot of emotion tied up in playing this room–equal parts terrifying and inspiring.  It’s an honor just to be asked to play here.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity but it’s large boots to fill.

The show opens with Prowse’s very fast snare drums and Brian King eking out feedback from his guitar.

And from there it’s 35 minutes of nonstop energy from both the band and the crowd. The guitars are fast and the drumming in maniacal.   It’s amazing.

What’s so especially interesting to me about this band is that there’s two of them and they don;t rally do guitar solos.  This all seems like a recipe for short songs. But no, most of their songs are about 4 minutes long and live they tend to jam them out a bit, too.

So in this show except you don;t get a lot of songs, but you get a lot of music.

“Near to the wild Heart of Life” plays for nearly five minutes before it is interrupted so Brian can talk about playing Massey Hall and how Toronto has always been good to them.

It’s followed by some great, really exciting versions of these songs: “Fire’s Highway,” “Heart Sweats” and “Younger Us” covering all three of their albums.

Brian thanks then all for coming out and spending a school night with them.

Introducing “North East South West” Brian says, there happens to be a Toronto reference in this song.  Its 10% more fun to play when we play here.  Be sure to sing it out if you know it.  It’s the one glorious moment on tour when we get to hear people in Toronto sing Toronto.

After the song they interview: the participatory nature of our shows makes you feel so connected with a roomful of strangers and we’ve both become quiet addicted to that feeling of connection.  It’s so visceral and it’s a big part of why we tour so much.

Our audience is part of the show.  Their energy is part of the show.  Sometimes it’s just as fun watching the audience as it is watching the band

“No Known Drink or Drug” and “The House Than Heaven Built” end the show in incredible fashion.  There’s even some stage divers (in Massey Hall!) which makes them laugh while singing.

Seeing Brian climb on the bass drum at the end of the set is a great moment.  I’m psyched for next week.

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Rat Beach”

William Styron is a pretty legendary writer, although I have never read him.  I don’t even know what he typically writes about.  This story is about Marines awaiting their next move as they wait on the Shore of Japan in WWII.

The narrator says that if he was a year older he would have been in the Iwo Jima bloodbath. Rather he and his troop were waiting on the island of Saipan.

He says he was “so fucking scared,” but it seemed the others would never let on just how scared they were (he wouldn’t either, of course). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLOUD NOTHINGS-Live at Massey Hall (October 4, 2017).

Cloud Nothings are, to my knowledge, the first non-Canadian band to be featured on this Live at Massey Hall series.  The band (which was at one time the solo project of Dylan Baldi) is from Cleveland.

Baldi talks about growing up in Cleveland, Rush and cover band and then putting music online and getting found out.

“Pattern Walks” opens with a great rumbling loud bassline from TJ Duke. This is without a doubt the loudest show of the series (so far).  Baldi has a great rock singing voice that falls somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Paul Westerberg..  The music for this song is fast and loud with some great ringing out guitars from one of the guitarist while the other plays some melodic sections.  The backing vocals (from Duke) just help to bring the melody forward.  The nonstop pounding drums (from the utterly remarkable Jauson Gerycz) keep up the relentlessness.  I love that both guitarists (Baldi and Gris Brown) play a squalling feedback solo at the same time but also independent of each other.

The end of the song is kind of feedback jam which Baldi describes (they intercut his interview) as “lots of parts that are sort of free-form…live we can just go off into more self-indulgent occasionally boring things.  And that’s what I like.  Hopefully it’s not too much.  That kind of stuff is more fun for me than playing the same song every night.”

Psychic Trauma is a bit more poppy/Replacements-sounding.  Even when it thumps in double time for the chorus, it’s still petty clean.

“Modern Act” is the catchiest so far.  Midway through the song Brown plays a solo and its fun to watch him manipulate the sound by playing with the dials on his pedals.

Duke says to the crowd that Neil Young Live at Massey Hall 1971 is one of my favorite records of all time so I’m a little freaked to be here.  Thank you all.

“Fall In” is a thumping pounding track with a whaling guitar solo.  Once again Gerycz is just a flurry of activity.  While “I’m Not Part of Me” is really catchy.  The middle has a fun section that sounds like a great lost Replacements bridge.

“Wasted Days” is the last song.  It opens with both guitarists playing different thing until the drums pounds in.  And once again the drums are amazing throughout.  The song lasts about 3 minutes when it slows down to a slapping drum and Baldi manipulation effects pedals while he continues to solo.  Brown plays with high notes.  The propulsion during this jam seems to be controlled by the drummer who is going fast and slow intermittently until he exhausts himself.  Meanwhile, Duke plays a steady two-note bass over and over.  After two minutes of that the band jumps aback up and starts again.   After nearly ten minutes incredible minutes, the final chorus returns.

It’s an amazing show.

[READ: February 1, 2018] “The Clockmaker”

I had a really hard time following this story at first.  Partially because I didn’t know what an animacula was–and whose fault is that?

A carafe filled with water has been sitting on a table for a week.  The animacula (microbial creatures) “had attained a great antiquity.”

These creatures delighted in astronomy and philosophy.  They based the theory of their world on everything they saw around them–light from the windows and of course the giant clock that sat across from them.  One philosopher thought of a clock maker theory of the world–a giant anilaculum of unheard of bigness who did something to the clock every day.

This version was widely accepted as the truth.  They identified the giant man with the sun and began to think of him as the Clockmaker. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORN RUFFIANS-Live at Massey Hall (October 14, 2017).

Born Ruffians are a trio who plays fairly punky music but with a surprisingly high-pitched singer Luke Lalonde.

When the show opens, he says I don’t think I ever considered that I would play here–it wasn’t even something …it seemed out of the realm of possibility.  Look at all the people who have played here (waves at pictures) Bassist Mitch Derosier says that these are employees of the month.  And t here is silence.  Drummer Steve Hamelin says do we have to laugh for that?  Mitch: I wanted someone to.

Lalonde says “it feels cool as hell when you’re on that stage.”  Hamelin: “hopefully it is the first of more.”

“Ocean’s Deep” has a loping bass and mostly high chords until the chorus when they burst forth more.  Lalonde’s guitar is almost rockabilly sounding (because it is a hollowed body?)  The drums totally pound (and Hamelin is up front facing the other two).

“Don’t Live Up” has an interesting guitar melody with rather unexpected notes

“& On & On & On” has a cool bass line and a catchy oh oh oh oh oh oh verse melody.  Then he tells the crowd that they just recorded a record and its out soon so they’re going to play some songs off it. (Which this last song was but he next song isn’t).

“Fade to Black” has punchy drums and a fast punky bass. The chanted backing vocals give it a real punk edge.”  After the song someone shouts, “you guys fucking rock, man,” to which Mitch responds: “that was my mom.”

“Miss You” has a great call and response punk feel “with your head held high–with your head  held high” it sounds great.

“Love Too Soon” opens with gentle echoed guitars a weird-sounding whistle from Luke–echoed or processed and rather eerie, but very compelling.

“Forget Me” is a song about dying.  It starts acoustically followed by a kick drum with Hamelin encouraging everyone t clap along with him.  The song dramatically changes pace midway through–slowing down with big thumps until it slowly speeds up again.

Lalonde switches to electric guitar with a heavy echo for “Needle”.  This was my favorite song and I wondered if I’d heard it before, the vocal melody was very familiar and catchy.

The final song, We Made It” has some cool fast plucked guitar chords (from bass and guitar) and some great triplets on the drums.  It’s a powerful punky thrasher with a big, loud, crashing (very satisfying) false ending.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Patrols”

I really enjoyed the way this story began.

Marty Mason was staying at a place which housed a dog, Murphy.  Each night the dog left his owner’s room, snuffled around and came to settle by Marty.  He would settle by Marty’s bed, alert, for the night.  If Marty looked at the dog, it would slap its tail against the floor.  If he tried to lock the dog out it would scratch and whine.

This prevented Marty from sleeping, but also prevented him from getting up.

Then the story flashes back to a military scene and I kind of lost focus. (more…)

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