Thursday, August 19, 2010
Win and Regine of The Arcade Fire: photo by Michael Ligon
Update [Aug 23/2010, 12:12 am]: Review now up.
I missed out on tickets for The Arcade Fire's two-night stint at Massey Hall in May 2007 and that was one of the few times I've regretted not being at a show. So when the band announced a surprise two-night stint at The Music Hall[on a tangent, which is at least closed for now due to unpaid back rent according to BlogTO] in Toronto this past June, I made a decision to buy a ticket. That show emphasized the sonically uplifting nature of The Arcade Fire's music, coming at a time[the recent passing of my mom] which turned out to be very much therapeutic. If that show was a warm-up, their large-scale proper show in Toronto at Olympic Island last Saturday nailed it.
With the absence of large-scale outdoor concert festivals from this year's summer Toronto concert calendar, Toronto promoters Collective Concerts stepped up to fill the void, first with the Pavement reunion show at Olympic Island earlier this summer which also featured Broken Social Scene, Band of Horses, Beach House, Timbre Timber, and The Toronto Revue(Zeus, Flash Lightnin' and The Beauties), and last week with The Arcade Fire show also at the Island, with openers Janelle Monae, and The Sadies. The Sadies, with Dallas and Travis Good in their sequined suits were probably happy that the clouds kept the sun at bay, but they still did their best to work up a sweat with their brand of twangy, surf-inflected, country tunes. The hour or so long set they performed seemed short by their standards, with their usual headlining exceeding the two hour mark. There were definitely a few fans in the audience, but it seemed that the majority of the young hipsters in the crowd were disinterested. As per what's been a usual part of their set at least the last few times I've seen The Sadies live, the Good brothers' mother came up to join the band on a few songs including, Sadies standards, their cover of the 60's r n' b song "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" and their smoking cover of the Traditional "Higher Power". I noticed the reaction of a few young female attendees who thought the whole concept of the brother's mom singing with them was cute.
Next up was Kansas City native, Janelle Monae. The Arcade Fire's Win came out to introduce her, this being her debut Canadian performance. While Win's subsequent walk off stage was a bit clumsy as he tripped over something, caught himself from falling, and sheepishly glanced to the crowd, there was nothing clumsy about Ms. Monae's performance, marked with precision, dexterity and soulfulness. Sporting her version of a pompadour, and decked out in a white ruffled shirt, tight-fitting black tuxedo pants, and two-toned oxfords, her band on keyboards, guitar and drums were similary garbed in their black and white attire. Janelle and her back up dancers came out onto the stage originally enveloped in black hooded garments but then Janelle started out into a a wicked rap before shedding the hood. Having only had some cursory listens of her music prior to the show, I had a slight impression of what to expect, but the live performance really converted me. Her music was a scintillating combination of rock, soul and r'n'b and her stage presence evoked the spirit of a few of the late greats like James Brown and Michael Jackson, oh and to me her music, or at least her approach to is, reminded me most of all of the still living(thankfully), Prince. Vocally, her soulful vocals were spot on, and even a passionate cover of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" only accompanied by the effective jazz-rock guitar arrangements of guitarist Kellindo Parker, did not expose any blemishes in her vocal technique. Aforementioned guitarist Kelindo Parker was 'sick' as the kids would say, and his stage presence was as if he was channelling the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Towards the end of the set, the back up dancers threw out a bags of balloons to float and mingle through the crowd. Overall, it was a highly impressive set from the P. Diddy and OutKast protege.
It's come to the part of the review where I should talk about The Arcade Fire but in some ways it is almost difficult to put into words unless you were there. It wasn't the show to end all shows but it definitely propelled feelings of glee and euphoria for those in attendance. The seemingly appropriate, both in title and tone, new single "Ready To Start" kicked off the set and I could feel the excitement build up inside of me. The next song, the punky "Month Of May", also from the band's new album The Suburbs, kept up the crowd's adrenalin. Other highlights of the night included new songs like the restrained "Modern Man" which had the audience clapping, Win switching to piano for the alt-country swing of the new album title track "The Suburbs", Regine's lead vocals on the infectious, dance-pop of "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" and the audience's vocal participation on "Rococo". While the new songs were for the most part new to me since I hadn't listened to the new album yet, they were so instantly memorable.
Of course the old songs weren't about to be overshadowed, so not to speak about them ad nauseum, we got favourites like "No Cars Go", "Haiti", and the usual double-shot of "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" and "Rebellion (Lies)" which ended off the main set in fine fashion and had me on more than one occasion unable to restrain myself from jumping up and down. In perhaps a once and a lifetime moment, the crowd[or at least the front part of the crowd] continue to sing/hum the outro melody of "Rebellion(Lies)" long after the band left the stage, and continued to do so for several minutes, until the band finally made it back to the stage for their encore which was comprised of "Keep The Car Running" and "Wake Up", a mightly fine conclusion to the night. It was an earlier moment in the night that solidified the greatness of the night for me as Win reiterated that one dollar from the sale of each ticket went to the Partners in Health charity to continue the relief efforts in Haiti, where member Regine Chassagne was born. But rather than segue into the appropriately-titled "Haiti", it was the grand presence of "Intervention" and it's pipe organ that graced our ears. I felt, breathed and tasted the greatness of that very moment. But whatever the true song's meaning, when Win sung "I can taste the fear, Gonna lift me up and take me out of here", it gave me a lump in my throat.
Photos: The Arcade Fire, Janelle Monae, The Sadies @ Olympic Island, Toronto (August 14, 2010)
MySpace: The Sadies
MySpace: Janelle Monae
MySpace: The Arcade Fire