Gorillaz – Makin’ the crowd go Ape

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!

The Tabloids – anything but old news

THE TABLOIDS – The Yale Hotel – November 2, 2010

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 – Rock Chick uncovered

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

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?

She & Him

She & Him – Orpheum Theatre – October 24, 2010

I can’t think of many other actress / singer’s side projects taken as seriously as Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward’s ‘She & Him’
The buzz surrounding this project is huge! Since my friend David and I didn’t know their music very well we thought we’d check out what the buzz was all about. This gig at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver and the last one on their world tour, certainly lived up to it!
Although we were a bit put off by the “No Photographs” signs posted on the doors and the hawkish security guards around the auditorium. Soon the poppy goodness of Zooey’s lovely folk inflected voice won us over. As she bounced around the stage with her tambourine, M. Ward displayed his serious guitar skills.
Soon the ‘hipster’ heavy audience warmed up and the duo seemed to warm up too, loosening up onstage. Half way through the set Zooey invited everyone to get on their feet and dance, which the whole audience took to heart, many of them rushing closer to the stage. Security seems to have loosened up a bit too as they allowed the fans to crowd the stage as well as take photos. Zooey did make one point to ask people not to take flash photos so not to temporarily blind them on stage.
The 90 minute set comprised songs from their two albums; Volume One & Volume Two, interwoven with some classic cover songs well suited to their alt-folk style. In fact their encore was completely covers; Fools Rush In, Roll Over Beethoven and I Put A Spell On You. The arrangements of the old songs blended well with the new and put the distinct ”She&Him” stamp to the whole set. Overall the cuteness of Zooey’s stage presence, combined with the serious musician vibe of M. Ward made for an amazing night. They said “we’ll be back” and I hope they are soon…I’d go see them again!

Klaxons

Klaxons – Venue – October 4, 2010

Three years in the making, Klaxons finally return to Vancouver in support of their long awaited second album, Surfing The Void
With huge buzz out of the gate, taking their time to follow up their debut seemed like a risk especially for a British band facing the fickle British music press. 
On this side of the pond, if the crowd at Venue was anything to go by, the enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. Although not completely sold out there was a good turn out to catch their bouncy new-rave songs.
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Scissor Sisters

Scissor Sisters – Malkin Bowl – September 16, 2010

Mother Nature fought hard but the Scissor Sisters still won over the capacity crowd at a very rain soaked Malkin Bowl.
Even though the rain came pouring down the audiences still had a great vibe in anticipation of the Scissor Sisters largest Vancouver show to date.  When the band finally took the stage; people in varying levels of rain protection, from plastic bags and styrofoam take out containers to North Face and Gortex danced and sang like it was a beautiful sunny dry evening.
Lead by the incredibly fit, Jake Shears and glamour vixen Ana Matronic, the Scissor Sisters’ infectious blend of 70’s Elton John meets 80’s Yaz synth-pop gets under your skin and makes you want to dance, dance and dance some more. 
In weather that has made other acts whither and hide under the sheltered part of the stage Jake and Ana were troopers and continued to perform over the whole stage.  After a couple of songs, practicality got the better of Jake and he traded in his latex singlet for a Gortex raincoat.  Amazingly this didn’t take anything away from the show, in fact it seemed to make the night that much more special as Jake and Ana were “one of us” partying in the rain. 
This continued into the night as the band joined fans at the after-party at Five-Sixty. Rather than sticking to a VIP area and partying on their own the band was out on the floor with the rest of us celebrating the wrap of their North American tour.  Just another reason to love this band!