Monday, October 13, 2008

Chemical Chords

concert review: Stereolab, Le Loup, Monade @ Phoenix Concert Theatre (Toronto, Ontario), October 8, 2008

Laetitia Sadler of Stereolab @ Phoenix (October 8, 2008)
Laetitia Sadler of Stereolab @ Phoenix (October 8, 2008)

On the heels of a new album "Chemical Chords" Stereolab came back to Toronto for a show at the Phoenix for what's been a regular stop for them since the first time I saw them in 2004. It was the third time I've seen them live, the last time being in March 2006 and the previous time before that being in April 2004. It's entirely accurate that their live performance has for the most part not changed. Watching them perform live was/is like watching a band recording in a studio - there's a certain level of focused musicianship but on the downside a general lack of emotion. The one exception was vocalist Laetitia Sadler who exuded a subtle, sultry vibe, now and then shimmying and shaking or throwing off some playful hand movements. While the live performance isn't really their greatest strength, as with the previous shows I've seen, Stereolab did a good job keeping the show at least musically interesting by drawing up the setlist with old faves, interesting album tracks and decent but not excessive selection of songs off their recent album.

You could accuse Stereolab of having made the same album over and over for years although that would not be entirely accurate. The set list did include six songs from "Chemical Chords"(the best ones perhaps being 'Self Portrait with "Electric Brain"' and 'Chemical Chords') that for the most part had a lush, sunny vibe to them. Personal faves "Percolator" and "Cybele's Reverie", both off of arguably their best album "Emperor Tomato Ketchup", bookended the main set displaying a punchier(though still melodic) side of them. Old faves like the rockier 'French Disko' and 'Mountain', the sublimely metronomic 'La Boob Oscillator' and the sunny, danceable 'Ping Pong' were icing on the cake for the audience who were more than glad to hear the older material. And really nothing probably could top the noisy, crescendoing climax of their performance of 'Cybele's Reverie'. They lost me a little with the encore['The Emergency Kisses', 'Stomach Worm'] and a few songs in the main set but only because I wasn't as familiar with them, but with the catalague as broad as theirs it's a little understandeable if I haven't made it back to some of their albums as often as others.

In all fairness, I should mention the openers were good too. Laetitia's other band Monade opened up the night, and honestly, especially with Laetitia's vocals, they sound like a stripped down version of Stereolab, with subtle emphasis on instrumentation(guitar, melodies, bass, drums) and more focus on melody and vocals. Laetitia did have to humourously point out the audience that they were not Stereolab in order to prevent a premature audience exodus after their set, apparently something which may have happened to a certain extent when they performed in Montreal the night before. Washington DC's Le Loup were the second openers of the night. They were an interesting blend of folk-rock sensibilities(banjo, melodies), instrumental experimentalism(especially with the use of loop technology) and vocal interplay. Not at all what I'd expected given the other bands on the bill and the 'frenchness' of their band name, but an entertaining surprise nonetheless.

Photos: Stereolab, Le Loup, Monade @ Phoenix Concert Theatre (October 8, 2008)

More reviews of the show over at Eye Weekly and Allan's Music World.

MySpace: Monade
MySpace: Le Loup
MySpace: Stereolab

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