Returning to the Garden for the first time in seven years, and on the band’s 26th birthday no less, Phish played an epic opening night concert for their first of three shows at the hallowed venue. It was a night marked equally by what did and did not transpire; the audience never managed to sing “Happy Birthday,” and no cake and few balloons were present, but the band did reclaim Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” after a decade long hiatus from their shows.
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The Vic is normally entertains concert enthusiasts by exploiting the ample open floor space that then tiers upwards toward the sound booth and two bars. Those who prefer their own seat can enjoy views from the venue’s second level auditorium-style seating. But for the contemporary poster child of eclectic-folk, Devendra Banhart, rows of fold-up chairs occupied every inch of floor space. Oh, and no assigned seats. Was this encouraging people to remain seated or was migrating towards the stage ok? Was the performance going to be eerily quiet, just a man and his guitar?
Strange though it may seem, the jury is still out on the Pixies’ live show. For every fan who insists that the band’s live sets are life-changing, you’ll find another who asserts that the Pixies are shoddy performers and always were. Lingering behind this polarization is the band’s considerable legacy; it weighs heavily in any discussion of its merits, inviting revision from the few who did witness the Pixies in their heyday. Regardless, this year’s reunion tour—on which the band played its 1989 classic Doolittle from start to finish—has reignited the debate regarding the Pixies’ live prowess or lack thereof. Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis slagged one of the band’s Chicago dates, dismissing the Pixies as “a cynical corporation cashing in on blatant nostalgia.” The Washington Post‘s David Malitz, meanwhile, described the band’s Monday night set in DC as the musical equivalent of a “slam dunk contest,” a performance that could win over “even a cynic.” So which is it: are the Pixies an incredible or terrible live act? Actually, they’re a little of both.
Over the past few months, Ontario has seen a flood of live shows from great bands out of Glasgow Scotland, including Glasvegas, The Twilight Sad, and We Were Promised Jetpacks. On Thursday night at a surprisingly quiet Phoenix Theatre, Camera Obscura added their name to the list. Opening for the band was San Francisco’s Papercuts who despite appearing painfully nervous and awkward on stage (front man Jason Quever dropped his guitar pick mid play and later got his guitar tangled in the microphone cord) played a short but impressive set. Their dreamy-pop guitars and keyboards nicely complimented Camera Obscura’s moody sounds. By the time Camera Obscura stepped on stage the room had filled in somewhat. The group played a variety of fan favorites, including “I Don’t Want to See You Anymore,” “Lloyd I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken,” “If Looks Could Kill,” and “French Navy.” Singing effortlessly, Tracyanne Campbell’s voice contained an underlying melancholy that lent authenticity to the lyrics. Her band mates Carey Lander, Kenny McKeeve, Gavin Dunbar and Lee Thomson were equally musically solid, but the overall stage presence of the band left much to be desired—a trait that seems to be common amongst even the most talented Glasgow acts. This utter lack of stage dynamic made seeing them live no different from listening to their albums played really loud. The evening ended with encore performances of “Let’s Get Out Off This Country,” “Forest And Sands,” and the highlight finale “Razzle Dazzle Rose.” Despite the showy name, I left feeling underwhelmed.
It’s hard to believe that it has been two weeks since the Meat Puppets stopped in Chicago. The band played at Schubas, a neighborhood favorite known for its small den-like feel, modest stage, and decent sound. I managed to catch the trio on their second night of a three-night run.
// Moving Pixels
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