Archive for the ‘Local Event Reviews’ Category

Fun in the dark with Black Comedy

By Bob Pember

The Vancouver Arts Club is kicking off its forty-sixth season with the Peter Shaffer play Black Comedy. Set in the mid-sixties, the play follows a struggling artist as he tries to keep things together in his London apartment, despite being hopelessly clothed in lies and having to cover his tracks in the dark lest he lose the attention of a potential patron and the approval of his fiancée’s father. Anton Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal, set in 1892 and with a similar, farcical approach to marriage, is serving as the curtain warmer to precede Black Comedy. The two shows play well off each other and work together to maintain levity and laughter in the theatre, setting the Arts Club’s season off to a great start.

The Marriage Proposal is a brief story about one farm owner wishing to propose to his neighbour’s daughter, if he could only stop arguing over the property line. A sample of the cast from Black Comedy gets to warm up with this physical and endearing one-act comedy that serves as a preview of the talent in store for the evening. The lead character Ivan (played by Jeff Meadows who later appears as Harold Gorringe in Black Comedy) gets the audience to a laughing start with an expert portrayal of the over-anxious and physically awkward suitor whose frightened attempts to propose to Natalia (played by Sasa Brown, the female lead Clea in Black Comedy) get put aside for an argument over who has the rights to a certain small piece of land. Though quaint and lower brow, The Marriage Proposal is well-acted and a fitting start to the evening.

Black Comedy is led by Charlie Gallant who plays the well-intentioned but sadly dim-witted Brindsley Miller. What makes the play an incredibly unique effort is its use of lighting in the development of the plot. The title acts as a pun, alluding to the unlit set as the characters navigate through the play entirely in the dark. This is where the play becomes cunningly physical and tightly married to the lighting technician; whenever the characters are set in the dark, the audience can see them in plain light. But, whenever a match is lit or a flashlight is found, the house lights are turned off and the audience is subjected to the dark. The play opens with a five minute scene consisting of the lead characters arranging the set without any light in the theatre until “a fuse is blown” and the lights come on in the theatre. Even though the stage is lit, the actors begin stumbling around as if in total darkness in an acting challenge that’s well-met by the veteran Vancouver players.

Any physical comedy runs the risk of being campy and running into “Benny Hill” slapstick territory, but the strength of the acting carries the play and it works seamlessly. The expert lighting creates a rare effect, expanding the capacity of live theatre—a welcome change from another night at the playhouse. Black Comedy brings refreshment for those in the theatre who love to be kept on their toes.

Black Comedy is playing at Arts Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until October 11.

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Fringe Reviews You Can’t Refuse (Part 4)

By Glen Callender

The 2009 Vancouver Fringe Festival has come to a glorious end, and alas, our intrepid reviewer has been reduced to a gibbering shell of a man. Behold the final four of an epic 26 reviews, listed in the order in which they are listed:

DAS KABARETT

In a tale inspired by the experiences of performer Heidemarie Muller’s grandmother in Serbia during the fall of the Third Reich, a respectable German woman struggles to protect her children and keep her family together as she is repeatedly forced onstage to perform humiliating satires of her own culture for hostile soldiers and militiamen. This bleak historical monologue is well-performed, but weakened by an ill-conceived dramatic gambit—our unfortunate mutter tells much of her story to a mysterious ghost she sees but can not recognize, a conceit that is ultimately too awkward and implausible to carry the weight of exposition that is heaped upon it.

ARE YOU PRIEST ENOUGH?

This entry from Calgary’s Silent Drum Productions is the musical and sometimes amusing story of a young seminary student facing the trials and tribulations of preparing for a life in the priesthood. As this show is by a Catholic and aimed at a Catholic audience, it isn’t nearly as hard on the church as it could have been—but when the sometimes potty-mouthed lead character shows his unmitigated disgust at the church for protecting child-abusing priests, and ultimately decides that he isn’t “priest enough” to live an unnatural life of celibacy, the message is clear. A decent show, but I hope for sharper claws on future efforts.

STRAIGHT FROM THAT SIDE OF TOWN

A weirdy and a goodie, this one-woman show about mourning and healing teaches us to cope with life’s traumas by unleashing our inner id-child. Boasting countless charming moments including a memorably off-the-wall sex scene, Straight From That Side of Town is a refreshingly raw, honest, funny and feral performance by a genuinely eccentric performer—precisely the sort of thing the Fringe needs more of. Encore!

MISTER KINSKI’S CABARET OF BULLSHIT

This one-off, late-night fundraiser show was spontaneously added to the Fringe schedule just a couple of days before it happened, because the Fringe performers—some of whom have been touring the Canadian Fringe circuit for four or five months—were yearning to stage an epic end-of-season blowout. And blow out they did, delighting the packed house with a night of fast-paced, ribald revelry that sent off Fringe ’09 in style.

Some acts performed onstage while others popped up in and around the audience, performing poetry, songs, sketch comedy, snippets of Shakespeare, and a howlingly hilarious combination of stand-up comedy and modern interpretive dance—all illuminated not by the stage and house lights, but by flashlights brought by the audience and performers. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell (actually Red Bastard star Eric Davis) even made an appearance, during which he endured the Seven Plagues as punishment for his government’s pending cuts to arts funding.

Show organizer Jem Rolls (of Jem Rolls’ Leastest Flops fame) promised that the Cabaret of Bullshit would be the sort of show that people talk about for years afterward—and verily, it was. 2009 Fringe artists, I genuflect to thee. See you all next year.

Fringe Reviews You Can’t Refuse (Part 3)

By Glen Callender

Eight days and 22 reviews into the 2009 Fringe Festival, our intrepid reviewer is now teetering on the edge of a complete nervous breakdown. Good Lord, the poor man has deteriorated to the point where he has the audacity to pan a critically-acclaimed touring production (see ‘The Seven Lives of Louis Riel” below). Behold his latest six reviews, listed alphabetically by last letter in the title:

THE POWER OF IGNORANCE

In the funniest solo show at this year’s Fringe, “Master of Ignorance” Vaguen exhorts you to unlock the power of your ignorance, stop thinking and start living. A relentlessly brilliant send-up of motivational speaking and pop psychology, this show is guaranteed to delight. And delight again. And delight yet again. Don’t be so ignorant as to miss this one!

Until September 20 at Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue 6)

AFTERLIFE

The first of the three monologues in this show, the story of a cold-hearted midwife’s murderous mission to conceive a child in 1930’s Appalachia, is the best monologue from a female performer I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. The second and third chapters—which follow the midwife’s soul through two subsequent reincarnations, the first as a yoga-enthused housewife and the second as a stressed-out film producer—don’t come up to the level of the first but this is still an impressive show. If your Fringe karma isn’t what it ought to be, Afterlife will certainly give it a bump.

Until September 18 at Playwrights Theatre Centre on Granville Island (Fringe venue 3)

MURDER, HOPE

Fringe theatre doesn’t get much Fringier than this. Actress Becky Poole’s cousin has an unusual form of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner syndrome, and her family’s experience with this illness is the jumping-off point for this striking nonlinear show, which combines insights into rare neurological disorders with musical numbers and dreamlike visions of heroes and hope. This is the sort of oddball experimental fare you can only see at the Fringe, and most of it actually works—in my favourite segment Poole dons a Batman costume and accompanies a YouTube clip of an amateur opera singer with a musical saw. An honest, thoughtful, and completely off-the-wall Fringe gem.

Until September 20 at Playwrights Theatre Centre on Granville Island (Fringe venue 3)

BIOGRAPHIES OF THE DEAD AND DYING

A troubled writer moves into an allegedly haunted Vancouver Island house intending to write a biography of its ghost, but ultimately reveals herself to be more haunted than the house itself. A dark, dense and demented journey into the tormented inner world of a woman on the edge, Biographies of the Dead and Dying gets top marks for its brilliantly bleak atmosphere and inventive staging—but in the end, the overwhelming coldness of the production left me, well, cold.

Until September 19 at Havana (1212 Commercial Drive; Fringe venue F)

THE SEVEN LIVES OF LOUIS RIEL

This facile, tickle-trunk take on Canadian history gets my “Most Overrated Fringe Show of 2009” award. It comes as no surprise that the CBC gave it five stars and called it a “must-see”, because The Seven Lives of Louis Riel is precisely the sort of pandering CanCon drivel you’d expect the CBC to be all over like flies on a pile of horse dung during the Battle of Loon Lake on June 3, 1885. Not so much a good show as a good performance by a magician intent on deceiving you into believing you’ve seen a good show, this hour of formulaic buffoonery will likely leave you gasping with glee if you laugh out loud at the Air Farce and insulted if you don’t. Almost desperately likable performer Ryan Gladstone takes no risks whatsoever, although he certainly pretends to, dropping a few token swears and then gleefully bragging about how “dirty” the show is. There are clever and inventive moments during this production but Gladstone is clearly using his considerable talents for evil in this calculated exercise in safe, ersatz-Fringe blowjobbery.

Until September 18 at Havana (1212 Commercial Drive; Fringe venue F)

DANIEL PACKARD’S LIVE GROUP THERAPY SEX SHOW

Comedic sex and relationship expert Daniel Packard comes off as gayer than famed sex and relationship expert Dan Savage, but not only is he not gay, he also doesn’t have a fraction of Savage’s pansexual knowledge. Which is essential in a town like this, a point made painfully obvious when Packard—who openly admits that his act is based on oversimplified men-and-women-are-different stereotyping—was stumped by a very straightforward question from a lesbian couple. Some free advice from this bisexual reviewer: If you’re going to dispense sex and relationship advice at an alternative theatre festival in Vancouver in the year 2009, I think you need to know something about queers. Especially when you talk up how gay you are.

Until September 19 at Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue 6)

Fringe Reviews You Can’t Refuse (Part 2)

By Glen Callender

Five days into the 2009 Vancouver Fringe Festival, UQEvents’ intrepid reviewer is already showing signs of mental and physical strain—but luckily for us all, his ability to write extremely high-quality Fringe reviews remains unimpaired. Behold his seven latest passings of judgment, listed in reverse-alphabetical order:

UNCALLED FOR PRESENTS: TODAY IS ALL YOUR BIRTHDAYS

Comedy physics meets physical comedy as Montreal Improv-sketch powerhouse Uncalled For transforms the theatre into a comedy supercollider where offbeat concepts smash into each other and spin off in unpredictable directions. Similar in tone and execution to other frenetic two-man conceptual comedies of recent years, the form isn’t wholly original but the content is a delight for lovers of smart and imaginative comedy. Relentless, hilarious and frequently brilliant, Today Is All Your Birthdays is guaranteed to scratch your alternative sketch-com itch.

Until September 20 at Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue #6)

PORNSTAR

Small-town librarian Esther doesn’t realize she’s a mechanic in the sack until she learns that her ex’s secret videotapes of their trysts have been nominated for an amateur porn award. Meanwhile, in the underworld, Esther’s dead 14-year-old sister tries to find her way out of Hell. The wickedly witty script is packed with quirky surprises, and adorable actress Anne Wyman has just the right geeky-sexy vibe to bring her libidinous librarian to lusty life. Primo Fringe fare that should not be missed.

Until September 19 at Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue #6)

NGGRFG

There aren’t many queer-themed shows at this year’s VanFringe, but nggrfg’s quality more than makes up for the lack of quantity. Actor and playwright Berend McKenzie elicits laughs and tears in the autobiographical role of Buddy, a half-black gay kid facing the trials and tribulations of growing up in a small Canadian town. Rejected by his birth father but loved unconditionally by his adopted father, the naïve, wide-eyed Buddy tries to fit in and ultimately learns to love—and stand up for—himself. Bring the Kleenex, because the scene where Buddy’s father helps him face down a bully had much of the audience in tears. If you’re looking for a show with a real heart, you’ll find it here.

Until September 20 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

LITTLE WHITE LIES

Vivacious young thespian Amy J. Lester convincingly inhabits the role of Gerry, a shallow, attention-seeking 18-year-old girl with a naughty habit of making up false identities for herself. A good premise, but unfortunately the script turns out to be just as shallow as the main character. Gerry’s motivations for lying are never properly explored, an attempted seduction by her literary idol forsakes depth and complexity for drunken belligerence, and her ultimate estrangement from her father feels forced and implausible. A solid performance, but in the end Little White Lies doesn’t offer nearly enough truth to satisfy.

Until September 20 at Origins Organic Coffee on Granville Island (Fringe venue #5)

THE HEFNER MONOLOGUES

Sheesh, talk about being sold a bill of goods! Turns out that performer John Hefner’s connection to his dad’s famous cousin Hugh Hefner is so slight that he has absolutely nothing interesting to say about it. In a nutshell, he met Hugh Hefner only once, during a visit to the Playboy mansion when his age was still a single digit. The big, hilarious payoff: Hugh Hefner gave him his first Diet Pepsi, and he didn’t like it. Seriously. That’s the most interesting and entertaining angle he could come up with.

And it only goes downhill from there. Hefner fills out the bulk of the hour attempting to contrast himself with ladies-man Hugh by regaling us with sophomoric stories about how lame he is with the ladies—but the tales he tells, such as the time he popped an embarrassing woody while dancing with a girl, and the time he went to a party and drank so much, are epically boring and unoriginal. Hefner tries way too hard to sell this tragically thin gruel, and the result is a grueling hour of some guy with a famous last name telling lame stories we’ve all heard a million times before. All in all, John Hefner has potential as a performer but he should stick to fiction until he’s had some life experiences that actually bear repeating.

Until September 20 at Origins Organic Coffee on Granville Island (Fringe venue #5)

CABERLESQUE!

Bouncing (and jiggling) from ’30s Berlin to ’60s Amsterdam to contemporary New York, Caberlesque! is a saucy and entertaining romp through a century of cabaret and burlesque classics. Boasting strong performances, sexy costumes and evocative set pieces, the only thing this show really needed was a hot crowd—the oldsters who showed up at 5:15 p.m. on Monday evening needed a serious dose of cocaine and Viagra, and didn’t give the performers a fraction of the hoots and hollers they deserved. See a late show if you can, and for titties’ sake, make some noise!

Until September 18 at Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue #6)

THE ACCIDENT

Antipodean madman Jonno Katz is a true Fringe original and his work is almost a genre unto itself. This time around Katz has concocted a comedy-dance-drama hybrid about two eccentric brothers, spiced with his trademark flashes of jaw-dropping comic inventiveness. A somewhat mundane story about secrets and adultery keeps The Accident from matching the offbeat brilliance of previous Katz efforts such as Uber Alice, The Spy, and Cactus: The Seduction, but it’s still a cracker of a performance that is well worth seeing for the inspired dance sequences alone.

Until September 20 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

Band of Skulls: Not what you’d expect

by Nick Black

Last Thursday, I saw a band that I knew very little about—a decision that can sometimes end badly. In fact, I’m a little ashamed to say, I only discovered them the day before the show. They call themselves Band of Skulls. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but don’t let the name throw you off (it made me think of an eighties revival hair metal band). This is not what they are at all.

Describing their sound is difficult, due to their total eclecticism: Each song appears to have a different influence, and each has its own appeal. The first few songs on the album are hard hitting, raw rock (think Black Keys), but from there each song seems to take a tour in its own, completely different musical landscape.

So, I stumbled upon this band only 24 hours from the show. A friend had lent me the album, and after listening to it all day, I could not miss an opportunity to see them live. As far as their live performance goes, I’m not sure where to start.

During this day in age, when rock music seems to be forgotten in the squeaky vocals of the latest radio-bound band, it is refreshing to see bands like The Dead Weather and Band of Skulls; rockers that put all their passion into their music and express it in a live performance. People always say that crowd interaction is important in a live band. You know: the banter that Wayne Coyne has perfected. For me, more than the interaction with the crowd, I need to see passion from the players—a sense that they are into what they are playing. Having said that, Band of Skulls was adept at this. They oozed rock and passion. Each song they played did not sound exactly like the album; they let the music take them where it would, as if they were simply transmitting something beyond their control.

I almost wish I had something bad to say. I assume my readers, if there are any, must be getting annoyed with me constantly praising the bands I see. Truth be told, I haven’t seen a bad show in a while; they simply seem to be getting better and better. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t been to a show that I knew I wouldn’t like in a while; at least not since Ben Harper at Deer Lake Park. Perhaps I’ll write an angry retrospective sometime. Until then, get over it.

Ryan Dahle goes solo

By Laura Melvin

Vancouver alt-rock mainstay, Ryan Dahle, played to a crowded Biltmore Cabaret Thursday night at the release party for his first solo album, Irrational Anthems.  Most people associate Dahle, and his brother Kurt, with the bands Age of Electric and Limblifter, both of which had massive success in the 90s.  After Age of Electric disbanded and his brother moved on to the New Pornographers, Dahle recruited new Limblifter members—including Meegee Bradfield who joins him on his solo disc—to keep the band alive.  These days, Dahle takes his talent and creativity and channels it into producing albums for fellow Canadians and Vancouverites Hot Hot Heat and The Manvils.  Looks like Ryan has talent and creativity to spare, however, with a solo album that has all the energy of Age of Electric or Limblifter—and unique, thought provoking song titles and lyrics.

To help celebrate his solo debut, Dahle had Canadian artists Debra-Jean and Prairie Cat start the party.  Opener Debra-Jean enchanted the audience with a simple three-guitar arrangement and impressively powerful and emotive vocals.  Prairie Cat followed with a fun, crowd-pleasing set, with a lot of songs about ex-girlfriends, which effectively warmed up the Biltmore and filled the dance floor.  By the time Dahle began his set, the crowd had crammed in front of the stage: Neck-craning and standing on tip-toe became the dominant dance moves of the night.

Irrational Anthems is an intriguing and infectious album, complete with an eye-catching album cover that looks a lot like a jungle gym made of PVC tubing.  With an album like this, the CD release party was bound to be a success.  Dahle’s years of experience showed in his performance—excellent vocals, stage presence, and a venue perfectly suited to an intimate album launch.  Though there were more guest-list patrons than cover-payers at the Biltmore Thursday night, I’m sure that the entire crowd would have happily paid the ten dollars to celebrate Ryan Dahle’s first solo release.

Check out UQ Events for tickets to concerts, theatrical events and more!

Fringe Reviews You Can’t Refuse (Part 1)

By Glen Callender

Over the 12 days of the Vancouver Fringe Festival (Sept 9-20), our intrepid Fringe reviewer, Glen Callender, will frantically watch and review show after show until he goes completely insane. So be sure to follow UQEvents’ Fringe coverage—where else can you get reviews you can use, AND watch a man slowly descend into madness? That’s right, nowhere. So fasten your seat belts, fair Fringers, here come the first nine reviews…

These first two shows are, as far as I’m concerned, unmissable. So see them. Seriously. Don’t argue. Just go.

RED BASTARD

One of the most entertaining Fringe shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen hundreds. Wickedly beaming from the depths of a depraved fat suit with lumps in all the wrong places, Red Bastard is a diabolical clown-monster who delights in making his audience squirm. No one in the theatre is safe, but to minimize your risk of molestation I advise you to sit in the middle, because he specifically targets those who attempt to avoid him by sitting at the back. Be sure to do everything he says, and if you’re chewing gum, don’t be surprised if he steals it from your mouth and sticks it to his face.

And that’s just the warm-up.

By turns pedagogical, pathological, and scatological, this show is so bizarre, shocking and laugh-out-loud funny that I was physically exhausted and aching afterward. Whatever you do, don’t miss this bastard!

Until September 20 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

WAGABONDI HO!

Wagabondi Ho! is a delightfully silly 20-minute interactive show that is performed inside a 1973 Dodge X-Plorer camper van parked on Granville Island. With a maximum audience size of four, this intimate theatre vehicle is worth it for the smell of the upholstery alone—and since there are three completely different shows available, you can keep coming back for more. All I can say is, if you miss this instant Fringe classic you may as well throw yourself in front of a 1973 Dodge X-Plorer camper van.

Until September 20 at the Wagabondi van, parked outside Performance Works on Granville Island (Fringe venue #6)

The next seven shows (listed alphabetically) are all perfectly good shows within their genres. What’s your poison?

FISH FACE

This all-ages undersea fairy tale features a great performance by solo actor Ginette Mohr, whose rubber face, physical grace and ace comic timing enable her to populate the ocean floor with a variety of strange and amusing characters. To enhance the show’s atmosphere—so to speak—the audience is handed bubble-makers on their way into the theatre and invited to blow bubbles at any time during the show, a gimmick sure to delight the young and young-at-heart. Gentle, charming, and a solid bet for your family Fringe.

Until September 20 at the Playwrights Theatre Centre (Fringe venue #3)

THE HONEYMOON PERIOD IS OFFICIALLY OVER

Energetic British performer Gemma Wilcox plays multiple characters—some human, some animal, and some not-so-inanimate objects—in this enjoyable two-act about the vagaries of love and relationships. There aren’t any great revelations about the human heart to be found here, but the performance is engaging and inventive, and Wilcox is clearly having so much fun up onstage that it’s hard not to have fun along with her. A nice light theatre snack that’s been pleasing crowds and critics across Canada.

Until September 18 at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST

Ernest is one of the most-produced comedies in the English language, so why bother to see it at the Fringe? Because this solid production features an all-female cast from Manchester throwing down Oscar Wilde’s winning witticisms in Victorian drag. If women in fake mustaches turn your crank, then you’d better get your crank down to Studio 16.

Until September 20 at Studio 16 (Fringe venue #1)

JEM ROLLS’ LEASTEST FLOPS

This is the seventh consecutive year acclaimed performance poet Jem Rolls has toured the Canadian Fringe circuit, and this show is a collection of favourites from years past, including “Two-Word Horror Story” and “We Broke Up Cos the Sex Was Too Good.” As loud, literary, and likeable as ever, Rolls is sure to please anyone inclined to enjoy 60 minutes of a slightly wild-eyed Englishman belting out cynical yet delightfully witty poems about life, love, and our maddeningly unjust world.

Until September 20 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA

Ooo, it turns out that Hamlet and Ophelia are exchanging some pretty naughty letters behind the scenes of their classic tragedy. Since the doomed lovers are played by a real-life couple whose attraction is evident onstage—let’s just say they really put the “feel” in “Ophelia”—after the show I couldn’t help asking the male lead if they ever rehearsed their lines during sex. He denied this, but admitted that rehearsals have lead to sex on several occasions. I knew it! Verily, ’tis a beauteous date show for lovers of literature, not to mention lovers of love, so get thee to Studio 16 for some Shakespearean sexiness—your quills will be moistening your parchments in no time.

Until September 20 at Studio 16 (Fringe venue #1)

SOME RECKLESS ABANDON

In this engaging one-woman show Cara Yeates kick-assingly portrays the baptism-by-fire that results when a restless 18-year-old prairie girl accepts a free flight to a Honduran Jesus camp—not because she’s a missionary, or even a Christian, but because she just wants to get the hell out of her boring hometown. Some of the Jesus-Freak supporting characters could have been rendered with more depth, but the interesting main character and the overall energy of the performance makes this one a solid bet for anyone who isn’t entirely impressed by the antics of Christian missionaries in Latin America.

Until September 19 at Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (Fringe venue #2)

VIRTUAL SOLITAIRE

You’ll want your brain and attention span at full power for this one, because this hyperkinetic sci-fi potboiler is not for the faint of mind. The story of a doomed virtual-reality junkie whose cranium irrevocably crashes while interfacing with an artificially-intelligent video game, Virtual Solitaire’s fractured narrative and fast-paced, jargon-heavy dialogue is guaranteed to bewilder you at least some of the time—but at least you’re in good company, as most of the characters in the show don’t know WTF is going on either. Darren Boquist’s knockout solo performance as 30 distinct characters more than makes the effort worthwhile, so if you enjoy intelligent sci-fi theatre, you know where to direct your RL avatar.

Until September 20 at Studio 16 (Fringe venue #1)

Stay tuned for another wallop of Fringe reviews, coming your way all too soon!

The Dead Weather: An Indescribable Musical Force

by Nick Black

For those of you who may be unaware, The Dead Weather is a group—or “supergroup” as some have dubbed them—comprised of members from other well-established rock’n’roll acts. To be specific, The Dead Weather is made up of a singer from The Kills; a guitarist from the Queens of the Stone Age; a bassist from The Raconteurs; and, of course, the notorious drummer who is from both the White Stripes and The Raconteurs. (I say ‘of course’ because Jack White from the White Stripes is always mentioned in any piece about The Dead Weather, now including my own.) I initially thought that this band would become another venture turned into an over-hyped disaster a la Velvet Revolver. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong. I heard the album and was immediately taken in by the dirty, rough, southern-bluesy rock that I have now grown to love so much.

The Dead Weather

I suppose I should preface by saying that I have been avidly attending rock shows for over ten years now. My first was when I was thirteen: My dad took me to the Rolling Stones. Since then I’ve always loved music, and have taken nearly every opportunity I could to go and see a band live. This means that I’ve been to a massive amount of live shows—from DJ’s to heavy metal—pretty much the whole gauntlet. Furthermore, I’ve seen The Kills three times, and The Raconteurs and The White Stripes once, so I knew what to expect from most of the performers I was going to see on Saturday.

That said, I was still blown away. I hate writing that though; it doesn’t come close to truly describing what I felt at the show. As I sit here and write this painful excuse of a glowing review, I listen to the record and still get tingles from remembering that night. At one point I turned to the buddy I was with, and it was like looking in the mirror, his face was as lit up by the performance as mine felt, like a child that’s finally meeting Santa Claus after waiting up all night for him.

I realise this isn’t the review that most people would want: You want me to draw comparisons. What could be expected if you attend a show by The Dead Weather in the future? What is it that makes their live act absolutely, indescribably rad? Well, I just can’t bring myself to tell you; it would de-value the brilliance I saw. Instead, I’ll leave you with this: Saturday was one of the best shows I have ever seen. You simply have to see it for yourself.

I highly suggest checking out The Dead Weather’s music so you can be ready to grab tickets the next time they are in town. Until then, check out the videos of their live acts, the best of which is “Will There Be Enough Water”.

UQ Events

Love turns Electrik at the Modern

by Bob Pember

On Thursday night, the record label Tremendous celebrated their newest addition, Love and Electrik, at the Modern in Gastown. The music was concise and well-aimed—it was clear what Kevin Mah and Roxy Aiston were after with their sound. What impacted me the most was that their music and the crowd that came with it brought me back into the early 80’s—and I was born in ‘85. There’s a formidable pan-80’s movement nesting within the denim vests, head bands and shoulder-lacking t-shirts worn by some of Vancouver’s downtown core; ensembles perfectly matching the Scarface-meets-Billie-Jean decor of the Modern.

There was a small but enthused crowd of roughly a hundred boppers ready for steady drum and synth samples underneath a smooth, haunted female vocal-line from Roxy Aiston which was paired with talk-box growls and key-tar solos from Kevin Mah. Their sound was tight and very true to an 80’s dance genre, but it didn’t seem very concerned with making any progress from that moment. I’m all for pointing towards the past in style, but like any reach backwards, it has to be brought up to speed if you’re at least going to attempt to create a new layer on top of past genres.

The music was great to dance to, but I kept getting the feeling that I’d heard it all before. The duo is more than capable of going further. Roxy’s melodies are proof that she has an ear for cohesion and timing—she has a sound that’s easy but not subtle. Mah is extremely adept at his vocal and synthesizer devices—seems to know them inside and out—so it would be great to hear him take them past the confines of “that 80’s sound” and into something more unique.

To be fair, I have to say I can’t fault them too much for staying the course with their throwback sounds. There’s a concerted effort these days to bring back more than just the music from two decades ago. Both the fashion and the decoration of the club matched the music—it was like being at a themed party having never gotten the instructions. Everyone there except me had been told to dress like your favourite part of the 1980’s. There were the girls who just wanted to have fun with t-shirts draped over one shoulder and there were guys in fluorescent headbands and aviators wanting to make sure you’re aware that they wear their sunglasses at night. The late-80’s were even represented with DJ Jazzy Jeff-style track suits and House Party haircuts. I understand that there’s always gonna be trends and I’m usually going to miss them completely, but I thought that I already missed this one. The show was entertaining and the crowd was serious about being a part of the proper 80’s setting, so while their music has potential to drive away from the past, I’m sure that Love and Electrik are comfortable for now starting out with this new label and a core of devoted fans.

Love and Electrik were presented by Ideal Friends and played at the Modern on August 13.

THE Kings (of Leon)

by Laura Melvin

Dancing to a good concert is like good sex: you use the best in your repertoire, you don’t dance around with a lot of useless moves, and you finish feeling satisfied and a little like your legs are made of jell-o.  In keeping with this analogy, the Kings of Leon made passionate, sweaty love to—and maybe stole some virginities of—a sold out crowd at GM Place Saturday night in the first of two Vancouver shows. 

 

KoL did a solid hour and a half set of both old and new songs, effectively dehydrating and exhausting the crowd by the time they made for the exits.  With four albums under their belts—including the most recent installment in their discography, Only By The Night—the band had a long list of songs to choose from.  To those of us who have been following the Kings for years, we wanted a throwback to the earlier songs that first introduced them to us.  To newer fans, the older songs revealed some KoL history, introducing the newbies to the band’s first three albums and only strengthening KoL’s avid following.  The boys were smart and made sure that their most recent hits like “Notion”, “Use Somebody”, and “Sex on Fire” made it into the set list, which fans, old and new, much appreciated.  No matter what song was played, there was always a good portion of the crowd that knew the words.  At some points, lead singer Caleb Followill felt no need to sing—the crowd did it for him.

The stage setup was simple, but effective:  A decent light show and four big screens that flashed between shots of the band and graphics gave movement to the performance. In terms of actual the band’s movement, they aren’t particularly lively.  They’re not jumping around on stage, climbing on speakers, diving into the audience.  But, they still know how to excite a crowd.  KoL makes up for their minimal movement with passionate vocals and vigorous instrumentation.  That sweat on their brows is from pure talent and intensity rather than a sprint across stage.  These boys from Tennessee are about the music, not doing some cardio.

Check out UQ Events for upcoming events at GM Place and other Vancouver venues.

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