Sunday, January 22, 2006

Hard To Beat

concert review: Hard-Fi w/ Shawn Hewitt and The National Strike, Stop.Die.Resuscitate @ Horseshoe Tavern(Toronto, Ontario), January 20, 2006

Hard-Fi @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Mike LigonFor the record, I've been sick all weekend and I'm just coming around to feeling better[fortunately, I mustered enough strength yesterday evening to make it to the Broken Social Scene show at the Kool Haus]. I was fine Friday night when I saw Staines, West England outfit Hard-Fi. Making up a previously-scheduled date, this show was sold-out. I made it in time to catch second openers Shawn Hewitt and The National Strike. With this being the second time I've seen the band live, not much has changed since my first impressions. He's got the soul-prog-rock vibe thing down pat, but the incongruity of that mix was sometimes too much for me. While Mr. Hewitt and The National Strike's extended jams( especially the ones featuring the double drum-kits assault) were impressive, in general I was rather apathetic about the set.

Against the back wall of the Horseshoe's stage was draped a large banner declaring 'Hard-Fi in operation', and I'd say that for their Toronto debut they lived up to some expectations. With the group of UK expats(or tourists?) in the audience I'd say that Hard-Fi were already halfway there to impressing the crowd, but it didn't take long to impress the rest of us. Having heard only a couple of singles previously, including "Cash Machine" and "Hard To Beat", I was hoping for a set full of such tuneful songs. With only a debut record to work off, the set seemed quite short but overall had it's share of enjoyable songs. I thought there were at least a couple of clunkers(a song or two which were kind of Clash-y but melodically no-where) but overall I'll have to agree with silence is a rhythm too that there's definitely a 'singability' about their music. Lead vocalist Richard Archer seemed like the consummate frontman reminding me physically of Liam Gallagher but without all the piss-y attitude. I enjoyed him most when he put down his guitar and just sang. Occasionally he picked up the melodica to play a bar or two, but singing and playing up to the crowd was what he excelled at. The Clash, ska, dub influences in their music was quite apparent nonesomuch than in their decent cover of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army". I thought "Hard To Beat" was the pinnacle of the entire evening: brash, British, and infectiously catchy. A decent Toronto debut overall for this young UK band, who are not from London. Let's see if they can put Staines on the map. [photos from the show]

ps. y'know all the smoke in the above photo? I think that was smoke from all the people smoking pot.

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