Archive for the ‘concert review’ Category

It’s been interesting watching Riot Fest evolve over the three years I’ve been attending. The first year, it was still at Fort York. The past two years, it’s been held at Downsview. Last year, we got four stages instead of two and a corresponding larger number of bands. Toronto still lacked a lot of the pizazz of the Chicago and Denver Riot Fest shows though, and this year, the festival made up for it. This year’s festival boasted carnival rides, games of chances and a circus sideshow.

And those weren’t the only changes. The layout of the festival was much improved over last year. The stages were all in the same places, but the food, beverage  and water refill stations were set up in two distinct locations instead of all being clustered near the entrance. I may be wrong, but I think there were also way more portapotties than last year. I made a point of using the ones the farthest from the entrance all weekend long, and it paid off. They were clean, well-stocked and there was never a line-up.

So, how was the music you ask? Let’s start with Saturday. I hightailed it up there in time for D.O.A’s mid-afternoon set. The B.C. punk legends did not disappoint, putting on a tight, perfectly executed set of classic, hard hitting, political punk. It took no time for a pit to form, sending showers of dust over the crowd. I wish I had gotten a picture of the guy in the pit, in full kilt, jean vest and Docs, with a little boy sporting a trihawk on his shoulders. Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth was clearly visible side stage, watching the band. My only beef is that D.O.A’s set was just 30 minutes long instead of the promised 45 minutes.  On the bright side, that did allow me to catch the end of the Dead Milkmen’s set and I got there just in time to hear “Bitchin’ Camaro”.

That was also my last dry moment of Riot Fest that day. Rain had been forecast, but I don’t think many of were expecting the torrential downpour that soaked Downsview Park for 45 minutes straight. Confession time – I was in a portapotty when the worst of the rain hit and I wondered briefly if it would be a total asshole move to stay there until the rain stopped.

The rain caused GWAR to cancel, and cut the Eagles of Death Metal’s set down to just 15 minutes. I almost forgot about Thurston Moore’s set and got to the Rock Stage in time to hear the last couple of songs. Then it was time for one of my favourite bands, Echo & The Bunnymen. Their mournful and yet poppy sound was a perfect accompaniment to the still-overcast skies, and having them end the set with “Lips Like Sugar”, “Bring On The Dancing Horses” and “The Killing Moon” was pure joy. Dancing had warmed me up a bit, but even so, the sun was setting and the wind had picked up. My friends and I were still soaked to the skin, and we unanimously agreed to leave early. We all desperately wanted to see Motorhead, but the thought of standing around for 2.5 hours getting colder was deeply unappealing. When I got home, I poured impressive quantities of water out of my rain boots and then took an epically long hot shower.

Sunday was bright, sunny and scorching hot. Perfect festival weather. I got there in barely enough time to catch the end of The Joy Formidable, who are always wonderful. Then it was time for riot grrl legends Babes in Toyland. I had just seen the equally legendary L7 a couple of weeks ago, so getting to see the Babes felt extra special. Kat Bjelland is easily one of the fiercest and most uncompromising performers I’ve ever seen. I had some downtime after that to chill, check out the vendors and get acquainted with some bands I wasn’t familiar with, including Airborne Toxic Event and Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls. The latter were my big discovery of the weekend – great live rock act with tons of energy.

And then it was time for Rancid, playing And Out Come The Wolves in its entirety. I confess that my mental image of Rancid was of the band of skinny young punks there were 20 years ago. When a large, bald, bearded man came out onstage, my first thought was “Where the heck is Tim Armstrong?” Turns out that was Tim. Ooops! The turn-out for Rancid was huge and the energy from both the band and crowd was electric. Best moment was when their set ended and crowd started to disperse. Then they came back for an quick encore and I raced back and almost got up to the front.

Rap and hip-hop really aren’t my thing, but I took in some of Wu Tang Clan’s set while sitting on the grass inhaling some excellent fish tacos for dinner. Then I played an amusing game of phone tag with my friends as we attempted to meet up for The Prodigy.

I’m not sure words can do justice to how good The Prodigy was. After a long intro, the band emerged into a blinding haze of strobe lights and lasers that lit up the ecstatic crowd into a sweaty dancing mass. An all-too-soon 75 minutes later, the noise-drunk crowd wandered out of Riot Fest looking dazed and delirious. Mission accomplished, Riot Fest, mission accomplished.


Posted: April 7, 2012 in concert review


Lee’s Palace, almost midnight, and Melora Creagher is being her usual and wonderfully insane self.

It’s not every day that you get to see your teen heroes in a tiny club. The first time I saw Duran Duran, it was 1987 and they were opening for David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour. The show was at the now defunct CNE Grandstand, a huge open-air venue that held over 50,000 people. I was 16 and my friends and I were way up high in the stands. From where we were, John Taylor was the size of an ant.

Fast forward 24 years. I’m a member of the Duran Duran fan club, which was the only way most people got tickets to the show. The band is touring behind their best album in years and they decide to play a series of small club dates in advance of the promised big stadium tour. And that’s how I end up crushed into the Phoenix with over 1,000 other rabid Duran fans, all counting down the minutes until the boys make their appearance.

Nick was the first to appear, sending waves of synthesized sound through the packed room, and one by one, the other band members made their way onstage and the full glory of “Planet Earth” was unleashed upon us. Dancing was a challenge in such close quarters, but I managed. “Hungry Like The Wolf” followed and I had to admire them for kicking off with two huge hits back to back.

The band seemed a bit cramped on the Phoenix’s small stage, and it was amusing to watch them jostle for position for the first few songs. Songs from the new album blended seamlessly with the old hits, and diehard fans like me were thrilled to hear “Friends of Mine” and “Careless Memories”, both from that first album released way back in 1981. Thirty years ago, yikes!

I somehow missed that “The Chauffeur” was on the set list for this tour, so I was genuinely thrilled when those unmistakeable opening notes cast a spell over the room. I love discovering new music, but I also love, very deeply, the feeling of singing along to a song I know so well that the lyrics might as well be tattooed on my soul. Every time I hear “The Chauffeur”, it thrill and haunts me as much the first time I heard it. “Ordinary World” was a perfect follow-up, and the two songs together formed a lovely oasis of calm in the sweltering club. It was so hot that John Taylor joked about us all sharing a steam bath. If only, Mr. Taylor, if only. A lot of things change in 24 years, but my crush on you remains intact.

Duran Duran closed out the night with the power trio of The Reflex, Rio and Girls on Film, which included an extended jam in the middle while Simon introduced the band and treated us to a verse or two from “Poker Face”.

In case you hadn’t picked upon it, I am a huge Duran fan. It would have pained me greatly to give them a bad review, but I also believe in calling a spade a spade. This was my sixth Duran Duran show and I can honestly say that I have never seen them do a bad show, ever. If only I could say that about all my heroes. Yes, Bauhaus, I’m looking at you.

My inner 16 year old and my outer 40 year old had a ball at last week’s show, and I can’t wait for the stadium tour dates to be announced.

I can’t recall who it was that said that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. That may prove to be true as we all grow older, but sometimes, nostalgia is better than you ever thought it could be. Last night was one of those nights.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, better known as OMD, kicked off their first North American tour in 20 years with a sold out performance at The Phoenix Concert Theatre. OMD were one of those bands I always liked, but never got a chance to see back in the day. Speaking of back in the day, yes most of the crowd was above a certain age bracket, but you won’t be getting any snide comments from me about it. You may get a rant at a later date, but I digress.

So there we all were, packed into The Phoenix, drinks in hand and ready to dance. OMD are a very polite rock band indeed. The set time was listed as 10 p.m. and right on time, the lights dimmed and OMD took the stage. First impression – the years have been kind to Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey. Second impression – they sound damn good. Leading off with New Babies: New Toys, the first song on their new album, “The History of Modern”, the band is full of energy and the crown eats it up. For the next ninety minutes, OMD delivered a seamless set of old hits and new material, the latter blending in beautifully without sounding like a rehash of past glories. Don’t look at me for a full setlist, but the expected hits were all present and accounted for: Locomotion, Joan of Arc, Tesla Girls, Forever Live and Die, If You Leave and Enola Gay. We had to wait until the end of the three-song encore before we heard their debut single, Electricity.

“I’m an atheist! Will you be my atheist congregation?” Andy asked before he launched into Sister Marie Says, another new track. I can’t think of anyone in the crowd who would have said no, judging by the volume of screams, shouts and applause between the songs. There was a palpable sense of joy in the air last night, from both the band and the crowd. Andy’s smile in the video below says it all

It’s been a hectic month for the Rock ‘n Roll Animal. Truth be told, job-hunting has taken up most of my time, but I’ve made time for fun too. Fun, for me, almost always equals live music and I’ve seen some amazing shows this past month.

Brit-pop darlings James played The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on September 30. James are one of those bands whose music makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I saw them two years ago at The Phoenix and I still get chills thinking about the 20 minute audience sing-a-long to “Sometimes”.

The QE Theatre is a seated venue, which left me and my friends worried about having room to dance. On the plus side, the venue is gorgeous, with plush red velvet seats. We settled in and waited for the show to start. When the lights went down, there was a moment of silence, and then we heard Tim Booth’s rich warm voice singing “Sit Down”. Except it was coming from the back of the venue. We turned around to see him walking down the aisle, singing while an acoustic guitar played walked behind him. He climbed onto the back of someone’s seat and sang from there while everyone around him lost their heads with joy and delight. One by one, the other band members came onstage and joined in, and by the end of the song, Booth had climbed onstage. Easily one of the best opening numbers I’ve seen at a concert.

Booth’s dancing can only be described as a full body expression of the purest joy, and he encourage us all to join in. “Toronto, I think we know each other well enough”, he said, “that I can be honest with you. You have a reputation for being a bit restrained. We want you to fucking enjoy yourselves”. And we did, oh we did, and the band rewarded us with not oft-heard gems like “Jam-J” from the sorely underrated Wah Wah and “Stutter”. “Laid” was a crowd-pleaser, and when Booth invited 30 or so people to get onstage and dance with him, he was somewhat taken aback to find most of the crowd trying to join them. Other highlights included “Getting Away With It”, “Out To Get You” and a sublime version of  “Sometimes” ended with another glorious audience sing-a-long. Part of me was hoping they would surprise us with “Born of Frustration”, but it was not to be. It didn’t matter though, because James had given us a joyful evening of music that speaks of hope, connecti0n and love.

It was a rock and roll weekend in Toronto. Half the city was at the Pavement/Broken Social Scene show on Toronto Island, and the other half crowded into Yonge Dundas Square for the free concert by Iggy and the Stooges that was presented as part of NXNE.

It was an odd crowd that gathered, to be sure. Of the roughly 10, 000 people there, a sizeable number were clearly Stooges fans, hip to the whole punk jive. A friend of mine noted how cool it was to see parents with obvious punk leanings who had brought their kids to the show. Then there were the people who appeared to have shown up purely for the sake of a free party, and while I have nothing against that, they were also the ones who didn’t know a damn thing about concert or mosh pit etiquette. As in, you wanna mosh, go in the pit. That’s what it’s there for. What’s not cool is damn near knocking over the people who are standing further back, just trying to watch the show. That being said, the pit itself was a hell of a lot of fun and pretty damn friendly too.

NXNE is run on a pretty tight schedule, so Iggy and the boys hit the stage just minutes after 9:30 and launched into a blistering version of “Raw Power”. I dialed a friend who couldn’t be at the show and held up my phone until I was afraid it was going to be knocked out of my hand. For the next 90 minutes, Iggy, still shirtless and cut to ribbons at the age of 63,  tore up the stage with a ferocity and pure joy that performers a third of his age dream of having.

‘We’re the remains of the fucking Stooges!” he bellowed, “and before we die, we’re going to do it with you!” Please, sir, may I have another?

The Stooges ripped their way through “Search and Destroy”, “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell” and “Cock in my Pocket” while the crowd rolled and writhed at their feet. Crowd-surfers bobbed their way across the steaming surface of the pit. Down in the pit, it was hotter than hell. Within minutes, my hair was soaking and plastered to my face, and rivulets of sweat were pouring off me. If I didn’t lose 5 pounds in sweat last night, then there is no God.

“I Wanna Be Your Dog” prompted a massive shout-a-long as the crowd assured Iggy that we’d all love nothing more than to be his bitch. With a wolfish grin, he closed the night with “No Fun”, which was a complete lie. Iggy and the Stooges are good bad fun of the highest order.