Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event, The Henry Clay People @ Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (October 19, 2009)

Update [Oct 22/09, 1:01 AM]: Review now posted below.

The Airborne Toxic Event's last show in Toronto back in March at The Mod Club, sold out at that, was an extremely satisfying show on all fronts including a rapturous audience, an equally enthusiastic band and a taut performance. It was a show that had a sense of occasion, most definitely illustrated when the audience was invited to jump onto the stage for their last song during the encore to celebrate the conclusion of an extremely successful show. Their majestic art-pop opus "Sometime Around Midnight" may have been the only song of theirs I knew at the time and to me still is their best song, but they managed to perform a selection of tunes, that though may have a high let's-spot-the-influences-quotient ["Sometime Around Midnight" is their Arcade Fire song] but were still dutifully performed.

Glendale, California's The Henry Clay People had seemingly just begun their set when I got to the venue. The Henry clay People, as they'd displayed when they also opened for The Airborne Toxic Event back in March at The Mod Club, played their brand of rock n' roll that continues to sound like "Wowee Zowee"-era Pavement with vocalist Joey Siara sounding very much like Stephen Malkmus and the band demonstrating some competent rock riffage although Henry Clay People drop Pavement's slacker-tude for more genuine and skillful musicianship. The band performed telling covers including a medly that merged their own original with Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side", The Rolling Stones' "Can't Always Get What You Want" and even respectable, if tongue-in-cheek sampling of headliner Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight". They ended their set with a well-intentioned cover of David Bowie's "All The Young Dudes". Overall, they do play above-average heartfelt rock n' roll and so as The Hold Steady may hold the rock n' roll fort on the east coast, The Henry Clay People dutifully represent in the west.

The Airborne Toxic Event's return to Toronto was marked this time with a step up to a larger venue, the Phoenix Concert Theatre, and their return was greeted by the audience with a hero's welcome. Although I don't think it was sold out, it did seem pretty close to being by the time the band took the stage. The setlist was obviously rooted in their debut self-titled album and also included a few new ones, and a choice selection of covers. "Sometime Around Midnight" still remains their best song, although I found it strange they'd performed the song around three quarters of the way into the main set rather than end the main set on a high note. As with openers The Henry Clay People, it was The Airborne Toxic Event's choice of covers which were telling. During the band's brief acoustic set where the band set up their acoustic instruments(simple drum kit, violin, stand up bass, guitar(?)) and performed closer to the front of the stage while vocalist Mikel Jollett sat down stage left [coincidentally, right near I was standing] they'd performed a few originals before a brief interlude into Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire". Later on they'd did a brief medley of The Smiths' "Ask" and "Panic". During one of their encores they performed with the help of The Henry Clay People a rousing rendition of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" during which the audience were at the pinnacle of being at their most energetic and responsive.

The sense of occasion that greeted their last show in March 2009 at The Mod Club wasn't quite there this time around in my opinion, but there's no doubt that the audience and band were equally psyched for this show. The air of complacency wafting over from the chatty crowd in the back was especially audible during the band's brief acoustic set but otherwise did little to detract from the audience's enjoyment. Personally, as I've listened to their debut more often recently, I realize that they're a band that holds their musical influences near and dear to their hearts, perhaps a little too tightly at times. Fault them as we may at times for that(and some like Pitchfork who've condemned their debut album outright), but I can't deny that they do have something.

Also check out the photos and review of the show over at At The Rock Show.

Photos: The Airborne Toxic Event, The Henry Clay People @ Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (October 19, 2009)
Myspace: The Henry Clay People
Myspace: The Airborne Toxic Event

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