JOSH RITTER – Commodore Ballroom – November 4, 2010
Josh Ritter stopped by the Commodore Ballroom or should I say ‘stomped by’ as everyone in the crowd was definitely stomping along to his country/rock/folk style. This was my first Josh Ritter show and I was impressed by the audience being so excited for each and every song. For someone relatively young his vocals and musical style hearken back to another era…Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and even a little Elvis seemed to be mixed into his DNA. Whether playing with his backing band or on his own he commanded the room and certainly looked like he was enjoying himself. I’ve not seen many artists smile and laugh so heartily throughout their performance, this was infectious as the audience smiled and laughed along with him throughout his set. Everyone had a great time!
Stars brought their infectiously catchy indie-pop to the historic Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. A nearly sold out audience was completely entranced during their set, dancing, bouncing, swaying and singing along as waves of melody (and bubbles) washed over the auditorium. With a vast catalogue of tunes to choose from a Stars show is always full of variety, in tempo, sounds and vocals as they alternate between the great Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan on leads. The Vogue was a great setting to match the Stars style which can range from laid back and mellow or upbeat and raucous just as the audience in the Vogue can sit for a while then stand up and dance…and in the area I was in, dance, they did! Fun!
I had to cut my experience a bit short of the whole set to see another show but that definitely left me looking forward to their next gig in Vancouver!
KATE NASH – Commodore Ballroom – November 3, 2010Kate Nash returned to Vancouver Wednesday evening with a 90 minute set at the Commodore Ballroom as part of The Georgia Straight’s ‘Straight Series’ of concerts.
In the 3 years since her debut album Kate has become an excellent seasoned stage performer, commanding the audience with nothing more than a piano, a guitar or simply her voice.
Accompanied by a 3 piece backing band Kate performed songs from both her albums; Made Of Bricks and My Best Friend Is You. In sharp contrast to tonight’s other concert this one was just about the music…Kate’s simple yet meaningful lyrics are presented in a her own light cockney accented tone that you almost forget there’s a depth behind them.
Even her chit chat between songs is light but thoughtful…a long diatribe against homophobia & pro-same sex marriage set up and followed “I’ve Got A Secret” until someone in the audience shouted “it’s legal here” which seemed to please her but also deflated her argument…leading her to quickly carry on to a spoken word poem.
Moments like these demonstrate Kate’s growth as a person and performer since first breaking on the scene. Back then she seemed to be a all persona and image accented by false bravado. Now we have before us a confident, wise woman and very talented songwriter.
GORILLAZ – Rogers Arena – November 3, 2010 Formed in 1998 as a side project for Blur frontman Damon Albarn and British cartoonist Jamie Hewlett (of Tank Girl fame), Gorillaz has up to now existed mostly in a two dimensional plane. When it comes to touring…one wonders how a ‘virtual band’ will translate to the live concert stage. Well wonder no more…they translate brilliantly! At Roger’s Arena in Vancouver tonight, Damon and crew wrapped up an 18 date North American tour! An amazing combination of great sounds and video came to life in front of us…beginning with ‘Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach’ featuring Snoop Dogg on video backed up by a 24 piece band/orchestra. This set us up for a night of endlessly great sounds and video. The animated Gorillaz past & present; 2D, Murdoc, Noodles, Russel Hobbs and Cyborg Noodle were visually presented above the stage on which Damon and an amazing line up of collaborators and musicians mesmerized us with stunningly (for Rogers Arena) good audio. Other guests in the videos included Bruce Willis and the voice of Malcolm McDowell. In addition to Damon Albarn ‘live’ members of Gorillaz include (one half of The Clash) Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. They were joined on stage throughout the evening by the Legendary Bobby Womack, Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, De La Soul, Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, at times up to 26 people were packed onto the stage. The 75 minute set was over far too fast but packed in an amazing feast for the eyes and ears…definitely left the audience hungry for more!
Tonight a good friend invited a bunch of us to check out his new band, The Tabloids. They were playing their first showcase in front at The Yale Hotel.
Having heard same friend’s previous band on occasion, most recently also at The Yale, I had a direct comparison to tonights act. The Tabloids certainly impressed us! For only recently assembling, they were incredibly tight and really worked well together. At first we thought the couple of female singers were superfluous to needs but we soon warmed up as one of them belted out her part of “Under Pressure”. All the songs in The Tabloids repertoire are of British decent and they really suited the two lead singers as well as the harmonies of the four singers. Partly because of the material, but mostly because of the product they were laying down on the stage the 45 minute set flew by in an instant. I would heartily recommend we return to see their next gig.
Even though some amazing R & B legends have graced their iconic stage one of the best things about The Yale is it’s still support of new, music and bands. The home of Rythm & Blues for decades The Yale is one of the few that has refreshingly not become a ‘hipster’ hangout…it’s still a iconic tavern, showcasing great music for people of all ages and demographics. The Yale is a valuable piece of downtown Vancouver’s entertainment scene.
I hope The Tabloids also become a valuable piece of Vancouver’s entertainment scene too. If they last a tenth as long as the century old fixture on Granville Street they will be doing alright for themselves!
KT TUNSTALL – COMMODORE BALLROOM – November 1, 2010
There’s a ‘Rock Chick’ hiding behind the folksy pop singles we usually hear from KT Tunstall and on tour she breaks free! Unencumbered by the need to appeal to mass market radio when live, the refreshed arrangements on some of her past singles reveal more about their inspiration and creation. Some inspirations are evident from her descriptions of songs, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Chet Baker were named but there are also some flashes of Chrissie Hynde and other strong women of rock who’ve come before her. One particular source of inspiration is especially poignant for a Canadian audience, the song Madame Trudeaux, which as KT described, was a written as an ‘anthem of female rebellion’ and is about the real-life Margaret Trudeau’s rock and roll lifestyle in the 70’s. You get the sense KT appreciates that 70’s rebellion in life and music.
Her four very skilled backing band members, including drummer/husband, provide some tracks with a wall of sound remeniscent of some 70’s prog-rock. Other tracks get a quiet treatment and a simple sound that brings out the sweet mellow folk/country side of KT. Even when solo, as we saw at her showcase in August, her use of samplers and other instruments creates a big sound for a little lady on stage.
This 90 minute set covered songs from all her albums plus an encore cover of Erasure’s ‘Little Respect’, which was a very fun highlight that I think ‘works’ because the demographic of the audience was slightly more mature than the usual hipster heavy crowds at a ‘trendy’ artist. The small but dedicated audience clearly loved KT, dancing and singing along to most every track. Although it was a Monday (after Halloween) night the audience was left wanting more, hoping to carry on dancing the night away. Exactly the way you want a concert to wrap up…satisfied but wanting the artist to come back again soon.
Sufjan Stevens – Orpheum Theatre Vancouver – October 28, 2010
Tonight I got my first Sufjan Stevens (pronounced soof-yahn) live experience at the Orpheum Theatre. His melodic voice was perfect for a beautiful auditorium that was designed for live performances. His angelic vocal styliings contradicted the rather melancholy topics of his music, which he explained was mostly new for this concert and was centred around internal emotions, physical and mental illness and heart sickness. Although these subjects might be enough to put a damper on the evening, his lighthearted and good natured banter between sets made sure the show wasn’t too pessimistic. Even when telling the tragic tale of Royal Robertson, who was the inspiration of the song “Get Real, Get Right”, it managed to stay interesting and light. Being that most of these were new songs, no one knew them but that didn’t keep people from shouting out their affection for Sufjan. It wasn’t until two thirds of the way into the show that people got up to dance, including Sufjan and his two back up singers / dancer. They really brought the house down and the mood up with their dance moves on the final song of the nearly two hour main set. After a short, equally entertaining encore of mostly older songs did the audience have something to hum along to on the way home. This may have been my first time watching Sufjan Stevens but I certainly hope it won’t be the last?