It couldn't have been more of a non-Halloween thing to do than go see Sondre Lerche yesterday evening. I only recently bought my first Sondre Lerche CD "Two Way Monologues" last week although I've been sampling his music over the 'net over the last year or so. The first time I heard his song "Modern Nature" I was awestruck; it had all the feeling of an old pop standard by the likes of Cole Porter or George Gershwin and the melody and instrumentation was so infectious. The young-in-years-but-old-soul Mr. Lerche played an early show yesterday for a crowd of pop fans and halloween revellers alike. Opening the show were fellow Astralwerks artist The Golden Republic. Lately I've been disappointed with opening acts for some of the concerts I've been to and I was initially thinking I wasn't going to enjoy The Golden Republic that night. They're a bunch of fairly ordinary looking guys(the lead vocalist's faux-hawk aside) from the U.S. midwest; sometimes I think I'm somewhat of a British music snob and maybe bands from the U.S. have to be extraordinary for me to be impressed. The fact that The Golden Republic are on the Astralwerks label at the very least got my attention. I caught about half their set and I gradually warmed up to their music from song to song. There was a slight Brit-centric influence on some songs, melodically sounding like a less self-conscious Oasis. At other times, the music tended towards a pure-pop sound in the keyboards and "ba-ba-ba" vocals. The lead guitarist(who also played keyboards on some songs) had some interesting guitar arrangements which kept the instrumentation from sounding stale. On their last song, the song ended on a funk-soul groove that was pretty wicked. As one of the members said, not all the artists on Astralwerks are "techno". There's nothing terribly new about their sound, but they have some enjoyable songs that deserve a second listen.
It was strange to see Sondre make his way onto stage, apparently to grab a guitar, fix a guitar cord or two, then walk off the stage as quickly as he made his entrance. He did this 2-3 times or so. It was strange because, I knew it was him, and probably others knew it was him, but most people in the audience didn't seem to have noticed Mr. Lerche dash on and off stage several times. I would have figured, that had the crowd noticed Mr. Lerche on stage, they would have burst into fits of joy. When Mr. Lerche finally made his offical appearance, it was a somewhat disjointed round of applause, but one which gradually grew in intensity. Sondre quickly went into his first song. The first half of his set was a solo set with Sondre accompanying his vocals with his guitar playing. He's quite a confident guitar player, playing a loungey-bossa-nova inspired arrangement one time then sequeing into more traditional guitar pop the next. He's quite a versatile vocalist as well, issuing an aura of a crooner at times but also more playful and casual at other times. Sondre took time out between songs to banter with the audience on such topics as how nice Toronto and Canada was, that he had picked up a cold recently(but was feeling much better since coming to Canada), and that he had to do his sound check for the first time that night because his sound engineer picked up the flu while in New York. Sondre apologized in advance for any sound troubles that might occur and explained that for the most part he had grown accustomed to having a sound engineer. A highlight of Sondre's solo set was hearing him sing acappella a cover of a song by Bing Crosby(which I think was called "Moonlight"). Another highlight of Sondre's solo set was on "Modern Nature" on which he encouraged(or at least hoped) the crowd to help him sing the "duet" parts of the song. It was really a joy to hear some of the crowd sing(I myself refrained since I didn't know the lyrics) but I was a little disappointed that this wasn't a full band version of the song. Thankfully, Sondre pulled up The Golden Republic as his backing band for the remainder of the set where Sondre showed that he was capable of rocking out and still maintaining his melodic sensibility. The Golden Republic were really tight as a band on Sondre's songs considering that Sondre[who I spoke to at the merch table at the end of the night] said they've only been on the road for a short while together. Instrumentally, the band was tight but vocally, they showed they were also capable of harmonizing. Because of the strict 9pm curfew, Sondre had to limit his encore to singing accapella only one verse of a song, if which I remember correctly was another cover. It was a subtle but lovely ending to a wonderful set.
As I mentioned above, I met Sondre Lerche at the merch table where I complimented him on the great show and how tight the band sounded and he was gracious enough to sign a couple of CD inserts for me. [check out some photos.]
So from the relatively chipper affair that was the Sondre Lerche show, I dashed back to Mississauga to meet a friend to watch the film The Grudge. I mean, how could I not go see a scary movie this Halloween weekend. I won't go into a detailed review of the film but I'll make some observations. First of all, just watching the previews before the film, I was reminded of the slew of new-school horror films that have recently been released or will be released in the future. The Grudge and Saw are the most recent films but I also saw the previews for Boogeyman and White Noise which will be released in the near future. I've never been much of a horror fan. These recent films seem to play more on the psychological side of the game rather than on visual gross-outs. The Grudge is a remake of a Japanese film, and interestingly is shot in Japan and directed by the original director. However, the film is comprised mostly of American actors.The film takes an interesting flashback approach to telling its story, at times confusing but definitely comprehendible by the end of the film. If the film succeeds at all, it is on the basis of atmosphere. It is creepy. To compare it to The Ring, I still think The Ring gave me more of a psychological mind-fuck. So if I wasn't as scared of The Grudge, I'm sure there were people that were disappointed with the film. I for one had the prerequisite shocks during the film but I was also happy to not be temporarily traumatized. The Grudge isn't perfect but it sure beats Freddy Vs. Jason.