When I heard that Echo & The Bunnymen would be performing at The Phoenix in Toronto, I was raring to go. A big fan of the band since the ‘80s, I never dreamed I’d get to see them perform live—let alone twice, in six months. The first show was back in October, when they played with full orchestral accompaniment at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The audience was treated to plush comfy seats and a mid-show intermission during which bar staff in formal attire served beer and cocktails.
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Anyone familiar with the pathos of Elvis Perkins’ songs was in for a real treat at his sold out show at Brooklyn’s Bell House last Saturday night. Not only was he in pique form, but he was also supported by his band of multi-instrumentalists. With his band, In Dearland, Elvis adds a horn section and, most importantly, tempo. It’s as if the ever melancholy Elvis has shaken off some of his sadness and introspection and decided to rock out his songs.
The masses pulsed and grooved to K’naan‘s intercontinental tapestry of rap beats, rock, and Afropop melodies. The Somali MC took fans to higher ground with tracks from his debut album Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005) and his latest release Troubadour, one of last year’s best, and most ambitious, hip-hop releases.
In song, K’naan grabs hold of your heart and mind because of his gift for being a unique voice for himself as well as his fellow countrymen. Opening with the joyfully tragic third-world anthem “ABC’s”, a crop of cellphones and mini-cams sprouted up in the front row to capture the moment. He floated across the stage, casually donning a faded denim button-down shirt with dark green pants. His clothes might have been low-key and understated, but as he made his way through the song he wore a big fuzzy fur hat, like a king honoring his people with a royal performance.
Going to a The Low Anthem concert is like stumbling upon a backwoods church with aged clapboard siding, windows thrown open to songs of melancholy and longing, attracting congregants young and old—most of whom wear plaid. An old foot pump organ with gaffer’s tape and other assorted antique and electrified instruments are assembled on the stage. The songs, eerily beautiful, portray a decayed world on the brink of collapse with a quiet intimacy usually reserved for introspective events like religious worship.
Wilco (The Band) has run the gamut through an extensive range of identities on record: from alt-country heroes to conspicuously anti-commercial sonic manipulators and back again, sort of, to upbeat dad rockers. That they can do each distinct musical character justice in concert is impressive. That they can manage to weave each segment of their discography into one cogent, if sprawling, three-hour set with success is something more. They did precisely that the other week in Hartford.