After what seemed like an interminable wait for the sound check to complete, New York City rockers The Bravery took the stage to an anxiously waiting crowd at Toronto’s Opera House on Tuesday night. It was well worth the wait. The rich sound unleashed right from the get go was nothing short of monumental and worthy of a stadium-sized sound system. Lead vocalist Sam Endicott strutted all over the stage sporting a white suit over a prison-stripe undershirt, completing the look with a white flower in his hair. His voice was reminiscent of The Cure’s early era Robert Smith, a feature that complements the rock/electronica sound of the band. It wasn’t until Endicott had half a dozen songs tucked away that he stopped to breathe and share with fans a story about the now-closed Brooklyn bar, Magnetic Field, a place the band once liked to frequent. He added that their next song was about that place and launched into their hit “Believe” much to the delight of the wildly clapping crowd. They kept the flow of songs steady and energetic for the rest of the set which included the current radio single “Slow Poison” as well as “Time Won’t Let Me Go”, and introduced some new material from their much anticipated upcoming album Stir The Blood. An already great performance was capped off with a brilliant version of “Honest Mistake” and a short but sweet three-song encore.
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No longer playing with the Licks, Juliette Lewis was in town playing a show with her new band,the New Romantiques, in support of their recent release Terra Incognita. It was with a strong dose of curiosity that I found myself at the Bottom Lounge to see it.
Over ten years ago Hope Sandoval split from Mazzy Star but the distinctive voice that defined the music has followed her ever since. Dreamy and feminine in all the right places, her lyrics tend to cascade down like raindrops on a windowpane. Her work with both Mazzy Star and The Warm Inventions is an example of a slower psychedelic folk with a touch lo-fi done right.
The evening began with a moody jazz track as prolonged entrance music for the band. When they did take the stage, the band stayed back in the darkness, letting the visuals of two film projectors do the work. Sandoval’s lovely vocals floated above spinning ethereal bodies—dancing women whose dresses seemed to turn into flames.
Sandoval, also remaining a mystery to the naked eye, was obscured behind shadows and her long dark locks. She deflected attention, not even talking between songs despite the proclamations of love from audience members. Her focus was entirely on the music.
Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions just released their second album, Through the Devil Softly, which they worked on with some notable musicians, including Colm O’Ciosoig of My Bloody Valentine. Not surprisingly, the band focused on this album during their live set. Highlights included “Wild Roses,” “Trouble,” and “For the Rest of Your Life.” 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread was presented to a lesser extent, with “Suzanne” and “Charlotte” feeling slightly transcendent.
Throughout, Sandoval’s vocals seemed to linger with the effects of the psychedelic guitars she was sandwiched between and, at times, unfortunately, not loud enough to overpower. Individually she alternated between just singing and singing while playing the xylophone. As her music conveys, if you concentrated hard enough you might have made out a look of longing when her eyes flashed through the darkness.
While the cinematic images crept up and faded, it was difficult not to feel the impact of the songs that were longer and darker than most.
After playing more than 60 minutes the band vanished quickly, and, for what seemed like ages, the packed audience clapped for their return. Upon reemerging, they played a two song encore. “Satellite” made Sandoval’s vocals even spookier and more effective with only half of the band present. Returning to their first release again, the night ended with “Feeling of Gaze.”
Sandoval only two words to the audience the whole night were “Thank-You,” just before leaving. And then she was gone. While the crowd departed for the night, the house music played Johnny Cash’s “We’ll Meet Again,” which seemed nothing less than intentional.
An audience of loyal Chicago fans patiently awaited Built to Spill to take stage at the Vic Theater last Saturday night. Introducing their set was Chicago’s native rock poet Thax Douglas, who wrote an original piece entitled “Built to Spill Poem #7.” After the band took the stage, and after tuning and gear fiddling, guitarist Brett Nelson interjected an apology: “Hey, sorry we’re fucking around, you know, taking for ever. I’m sorry. We’re gonna do it! Let’s do it!”
The group—Doug Martsch on guitars and vocals, Brett Nelson on guitar, Jim Roth on guitar, Brett Netson on bass, and Scott Plouf on drums—started their set on the mellow side with the new track “Oh Yeah,” followed by more tuning, and the old-school, melodic, up-tempo piece “In the Morning.” By the forth song, “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss,” the band was content with their intonation and ready to give Chicago their all. As people nodded, swayed, bopped and sang along to the music their expressions were nothing but smiles of approval and joy.
The set list covered the span of Built to Spill’s career (16 years and counting,) including “Oh Yeah” and “Hindsight,” both off of their upcoming release There is No Enemy, due out October 6th. Some tracks were kept brief, while others strayed into extended, intricate jams—the most notable was encore “Conventional Wisdom,” which lasted a good half-hour before the band brought it to an end. The entire time stage lights matched the music’s intensity, becoming brighter during build-ups and peaks, only to fade out as the musicians backed off. Closing the show with “You Were Right” brought down the house.
The band’s beautiful melodies and intricate guitar playing were ideal for filling and warming the theatre’s small, more enclosed, setting. They could not have played a more perfect venue. But what was most impressive was how Marsch, Nelson and Roth complimented and layered their guitar parts into one unifying sound.
When the performance ended both band and audience thanked each other for a stellar evening. In the most modest of fashions band members broke down their own gear, sans roadies, taking time to mingle with fans. They enthusiastically passed out set-lists and guitar picks upon request, and dutifully signed ticket stubs and any other concert paraphernalia handed to them. Not just a great band, they were also a class act.
“Built to Spill Poem #7” (Thax Douglas)
1. Oh Yeah
2. In the Morning
3. The Plan
4. Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
6. Wherever You Go
8. Three Years Ago
11. One Thing
14. Conventional Wisdom
15. You Were Right
When Sunny Day Real Estate, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are all playing the same night in DC, and you can still sell out your show at (admittedly small) DC9, you’re probably doing something right. The Antlers played a great set, to an excited crowd. My fears that their melodic, sometimes soft, often swooping, and always well produced songs wouldn’t translate well to a live show were completely put to rest. They came hard at times, but went quiet too, and Peter Silberman’s voice is just as strong as it is on the album.