Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On February 25, 2006 I saw Belle and Sebastian and the New Pornographers at the Docks. It was my first experience seeing both bands, and my first experience at the Docks. I’ve been a Belle and Sebastian fan for many years, so finally getting to see them was a huge thrill. Unfortunately, The Docks was less than appealing, and really tainted the experience. The club was completely oversold to the point where people near the front could not move on either side of the venue. It also means that they could not turn around and head to the back of the venue, because the audience was crowding them in as well. Oh, and by front, I mean the two-thirds of the venue, which is insane. It was a terrible experience, fans young and old were horribly uncomfortable, and you could tell from looking around the club that for as great as the bands were, people were very unhappy. After the New Pornographers, I moved towards the back of the building. Maybe I’m just getting too old, but I realized that if anything, like a fire, took place near the stage, I was dead.
In fact, between bands, it still took me about 15 minutes to walk to the back of the venue (just to put things in perspective, this would be less than a minute walk if there were no people in the building). When Belle and Sebastian came out, I was near the back, but luckily still had a fairly good view of the band. Unfortunately, you have to be near the stage to actually hear the whole show, so all of the between-song banter was missed by those of us crowded up at the back. The band also kept urging the crowd to dance around, and to move closer. You really can’t blame them, though, because the lights were in their eyes, and how many bands know that the club owners would completely oversell a venue to make it unsafe and an uncomfortably tight fit for their fans?
However, shitty shows at the Docks may be a thing of the past. It appears the club lost its liquor licence. This is great news to Toronto music fans who like to attend shows in the 2,000-2,500 capacity, because the Docks seemed to get most of those, leaving fans like myself missing out on great bands (because I'm just not pissing my money away to stand in that unsafe shithole). Oh, and despite the bar owner claiming he has not received complaints this year, this point may be true with respect to noise, but on the night of the Belle and Sebastian show, my brother-in-law (also in attendance) called the Fire Marshall, who advised that they were regularly called out to the venue as it is always oversold.
As someone who has wanted to see Belle and Sebastian live for almost 9 years, the memory of that night will always be tainted by the massive crowd, small awkward venue, and the terrible sound. I’ve seen many concerts in many different venues, but no venue was as bad as the Docks. I am hopeful the decision is affirmed on appeal.
posted by Jonathan

Monday, July 17, 2006

It's been far too long since I have posted here, so I'll try to do some updates. This summer has been all about catching up on seeing gigs that I missed while living out east (since I am now living in Toronto). The most memorable shows of the summer so far was seeing Radiohead both nights at the Hummingbird Centre. The first show was on my birthday, which was the greatest gift ever, even though my wife and I were seated in the back row balcony. However, that wasn't a huge problem, since I sat in the front row the next night. Crazy the different perspective you get one night to the next when that happens. heh.
The set list for the June 7th gig is as follows:

01 You and Whose Army
02 The National Anthem
03 Morning Bell
04 15 Step
05 Open Pick
06 Exit Music (for a film)
07 Dollars & Cents
08 Videotape
09 Bodysnatchers
10 There There
11 Street Spirit
12 The Gloaming
13 Bangers 'n Mash
14 Nude
15 Myxomatosis
16 Idioteque
17 How To Disappear Completely
Encore 1
18 Airbag
19 Pyramid Song
20 Arpeggi
21 Lucky
Encore 2
22 4 Minute Warning
23 Everything In Its Right Place

Now I'll admit that I had downloaded a few 2006 shows before seeing them, but never really listened to the new songs accept for Arpeggi, which is great. But I must say, I was really happy to hear the new stuff on the first night, and highlights are Open Pick, Videotape, and Bodysnatchers. Nude, a song that used to be subtitled "Big Ideas (Don't Get Any)" is different now, with some beats to it, and they've tried to make it a bit more uptempo. While the song grew on me over the course of both nights, the original versions that I have from Tokyo (January '98) and San Francisco from '98 musically set a tone that fits with the lyrics. It's a track that deals with that inner battle that one goes through if they are involved in an affair, or just thinking about it. At least that's always been my read on the lyrics. So hearing the more upbeat groove on the new tour just seemed a bit out of place. However, like Motion Picture Soundtrack, which for years was just a gorgeous song with Thom and a guitar morphed into this harp-experimental masterpiece on Kid A. So I'm very interested to see what the final studio version of "Nude" sounds like. I'm just happy to see that a song with such amazing lyrics is possibly being considered for the new album.
On the second night, the closer seats and the more greatest hits-styled set list made it one of the greatest gigs I've ever been to. And I know it will always be the most memorable Radiohead show for me (well, it definitely ranks in the top 3, which is pretty good considering it was my 16th time seeing them). The set list for that show is as follows:

1 The Gloaming
2 Bangers n Mash
3 15 Step
4 2+2=5
5 Kid A
6 Fake Plastic Trees
7 Videotape
8 Arpeggi
9 Idioteque
10 Climbing up the Walls
11 Down is the New Up
12 Karma Police
13 Nude
14 House of Cards
15 Myxomatosis
16 Spooks
17 Paranoid Android
Encore 1
18 You and Whose Army
19 Bodysnatchers
20 Just
21 Let Down
Encore 2
22 There There

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm painfully biased when it comes to this group, and rarely do I criticize them, but there was one song on the second night that was so painfully bad - lyrically, musically, everything, that I couldn't even believe this band would come out and waste 2-3 minutes playing it. It was TERRIBLE. Brutal. I believe it was "House of Cards," but will admit that it's been awhile since I saw the show, so I could be wrong. However, this is a song that no amount of studio work could fix. It was the lyrics that were just bland. It was just cliche rock lyrics that we could hear from anyone, but never from Radiohead. Hopefully they will re-think the song, and just drop it from their minds altogether. :)
Other than that, the show was great, and the brief instrumental Spooks was an amazing addition, made even more memorable by Thom's follow-up comments, "What the hell was that?!" Also, it was the first time I've seen Let Down live. I understood while researching the book that the time signature of the song made it almost impossible to perform live, but the band did an excellent job at pulling it off.
Before I end this post, I should also mentio that Thom Yorke released a solo album this week, The Eraser. As stated, I'm horribly biased when it comes to this band, and that doesn't change with this album. I've seen it getting average ratings, but I think it's a gorgeous album that fans of the band will love. It's definitely not as electronic as early reviews suggested, and it's best taken as offering 9 more reasons why Thom Yorke has one of the best voices in music.
However, I can also accept that most critics will pass on the album, as it's not as musically challenging or earth shattering as most Radiohead albums. And I'd like to direct everyone attention to a very good friend's review of the album. I don't think the album sags at all, nor do I agree with a lot of the points he makes in the review, but he's a great writer, and I respect his opinion.
posted by Jonathan