DIRTY PROJECTORS September 15 @ The Opera House
|Dirty Projectors. The lighting was pretty dim so it was difficult to get a good shot of the whole group. All photos by Colleen Hale-Hodgson.|
The night's surprise guest was none other than elite Toronto experimental violin virtuoso Owen Pallett. He was accompanying Angel Deradoorian on the sparse yet beautiful "Two Doves" (a personal favourite). It was the icing on a show that was already filled with outstanding energy and dynamics.
Dirty Projectors, "Stillness Is The Move" from Bitte Orca
CARIBOU September 17 @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre
|Caribou. You can just spy some of the brass/wind band in the background.|
There were moments where it felt like the I had stumbled upon a space-out jam session; Snaith would present extended cuts from this year's record, Swim, along with his Polaris Prize-winning Andorra (2007), letting each musical phrase splay out into every sonic corner he could find. Snaith has a sort of rhythmic precision that permeates throughout every layer of live instruments/electronic instruments/voice, all the way down to the traditional rhythmic elements. Everything feels so well placed on the album that I thought messing with the structure live might detract from their overall story arch (and, for a few tracks at least, I was right), but Snaith's handling of "Bowls" off of Swim exemplifies how his live tinkering can really open a piece up, and engulf an audience in the process.
Caribou, "Sun" from Swim
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB April 1 @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre
Kind of disappointing. To be honest I really haven't been keeping up with this band in the past few years, and I know them best for their 2005 breakout Howl, which they only played a couple of songs from. Howl is a grinding rock and roll opus, with wailing harmonicas and old-school laid-back vocals. Think The Black Keys before there was The Black Keys. So, being a few years behind on the bandwagon didn't help me enjoy the show much, but it should be said that despite my general disinterest in their new material, they are a solid live band. The guitar and bass prowess that made them so attractive in '05 is still there, but (from what I remember of the concert) there wasn't much innovation in their sound since then.
MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND May 4 @ El Mocambo
This was an early one, but certainly set the stage for a string of surprisingly good small concerts I saw this year. My Brightest Diamond is essentially just Shara Warden belting out her unique brand of moody folk rock. There have been rotating members in the past, and she has performed with a band before - Worden kept mentioning that her drummer was out for a smoke (must have been some long smoke because he never showed up) - but this was a very intimate show with a small crowd. This was particularly baffling for me because when I had seen Worden last year with The Decemberists she completely owned the stage whenever her solos came around. Her voice is simply incredible. Powerful, keen, and full of natural character, Worden's voice is easily one of the best in indie rock music today (maybe even history - just check out her cover of the 'oft covered "Feelin' Good"), so I was surprised to see that this performance wasn't a bigger deal. For this performance Worden played the electric guitar over a drum machine, and used some creative digital effects to loop her vocals on one of the eerier songs.
With an act that became something of a trend for some of my concert experiences this year, I hadn't actually heard any of My Brightest Diamond's music before buying my ticket. Everything (besides the "Feeling Good" cover, which closed the night) was new to me, which may not be the best way to get into MBD. As I said, Worden's voice alone was worth the price of admission, but the songs themselves require more patience. My current favourite blogger, contemporary composer and sass aficionado Nico Muhly, compared the uniqueness of Worden's pipes to that of Bjork's (a real compliment), so that should give you an idea of how "acquired taste" MBD may be for some.
(I should note that at the time of the show, Worden was very pregnant - she had little Constantine Jamesson Worden in July. That's apropo to nothing, really. I just remember thinking how rough it must be to shlup around the country with a baby weighing down your belly. Kudos to Shara Wordon for being a cool mom, though).
THE WEAKERTHANS May 26 @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
|The Weakerthans. I love how in my best shot none of them are actually looking at the audience.|
The Weakerthans, "Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)" from Reconstruction Site