When the 15th birthday tour for Mint records and Exclaim! magazine came to town on Saturday October 14th, I half knew what to expect..well at least two thirds. Both headliners, the New Pornographers and opening band Novillero played the same venue together 8 months ago with Victoria's Immaculate Machine added as a bonus. This tour is taking all three bands across Canada, from Ottawa to Vancouver, with great exposure for the two smaller bands.
Winnipeg's Novillero opened the evening with their infectious ear pleasing power pop sounds complete with horns (trumpet and trombone). Their live show exhibits the same high energy as on their albums and these guys continue to get better everytime. Last February, I thought they blew the NP's away, this time they were given a shorter opening slot, perhaps because there was three bands instead of two. Grab their new album "Aim For The Right Holes In Their Lives" for proof of their pop perfection or see them live when they return home. Unfortunately, at the show they couldn't sell their previous release Brindleford Follies, because it was released on Endearing records, not Mint. Immaculate Machine is probably best known as the other band that Kathryn Calder is in. Yes, Kathryn is a New Pornographer as well, which meant double duty, back to back performances. Though they weren't as energetic as Novillero, they settled into a nice new wave-ish poppy groove. They have kind of a simple catchy sound that seemed to grow on me as their set progressed. I'm always interested in how a trio presents itself, will the sound be full enough? will all the songs sound similar? Immaculate Machine has a guitar player (Brooke), drums (Luke)and keyboards, no bass, but Kathryn plays basslines with her left hand while her right plays lead.
I could go on and on about Neko Case, but I won't. Kathryn Calder has definitely made herself comfortable as a member of the New Pornographers, her voice is powerful and blends beautifully with Uncle Carl. From where I was standing, John Collin's bass seemed to boom and drown out Carl's vocals a bit, but Kathryn's voice stood above it all. This is the third time I've seen the NP's and they are definitely a tighter more polished unit. Carl didn't talk much until the encore when he was taking audience requests and he seemed to be frustrated by the requests of songs he said were "too hard to play". You know he probably had only a few songs in mind anyways that they were prepared to perform, since the many requests for "Letter from An Occupant" went again unacknowledged, we can assume they don't play that song anymore without Neko. All in all it was a better show than February, but they played only a couple of different songs.
New Pornographers Setlist: Winnipeg "The Garrick" October 14, 2006 1. Sing Me Spanish Techno 2. The Laws Have Changed 3. Jackie, Dressed In Cobras 4. Bleeding Heart Show 5. Mass Romantic 6. Testiment To youth In Verses 7. Stacked Crooked 8. All For Swinging You Around 9. The Jessica Numbers 10. The Bones Of An Idol 11. Twin Cinema 12. From Blown Speakers 13. Centre For Holy Wars 14. It's Only Divine Rights 15. Use It encore 16. Streets Of Fire 17. Miss Teen Wordpower 18. The Slow Descent Into Alcohol
It's still hard to believe, not the fact the Who can still deliver a rockin' show, but that it was almost exactly thirty years since their last visit. Yep, it was October 18th 1976 at the Winnipeg Arena as part of their "Who By Numbers North American Tour", back when Keith Moon was still alive, but unfortunately I was only in Jr. High and still a couple of years before I went to my first real concert. I would love have seen the Who in their glory days, I realize that during the mid-seventies they were already on a downward slide, Who By Numbers (1975) and Who Are You (1978) weren't exactly Tommy or Who's Next, but it was the original line-up, the Ox, Moon, Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend. I took my 17 year old son to the show and explained to him the Who in the 60's and 70's were probably one of the best bands to see live, he had heard only a handful of Who songs (TV theme songs, commercials and that Simpson's episode when the town of Springfield split into two area codes, with a wall dividing the two sides) and I was hoping he could hear some of their magic.
The opening band was the energetic Inward Eye, a band from Winnipeg that has been the buzz band on the scene for the last few years, they have a record deal, aggressive management and supposeably a debut disc very soon. This must have been an incredible thrill for these three young brothers (Dave, Kyle and Anders Erikson), as they are obviously influenced by early Who and the Jam. Seeing these guys live won't compare to anything they'll record, but their energy and freshness will keep their fans coming back for more, see them in a smaller venue while you can! Their drummer (Anders) brings to mind the crazy insaneness of Keith Moon, who in many ways embodies the spirit of the original Who.
When the Who hit the MTS Centre stage at about 8:30pm I kind of knew what to expect, big screens, flashing lights, they'll open with I Can't Explain, they'll close their set with Won't Get Fooled Again (just like in 1976), and lots of distractions from watching the actual band on stage. Actually it was a good thing there were big screens because my seats for the show couldn't have been farther away, very last row in the corner of the upper deck. They had 5 moveable screens behind the stage, 2 on the sides and 1 larger screen above the stage, that way you can watch Pete noodle on his guitar and see Roger's pained expression on his face trying to hit the high notes, instead of fuzzy specks on the large stage. The 5 rotating screens were so cool, they could be butted together to form one big screen or they can be independently altered up or down and side to side with 5 different images on them. They were unbelievably clear and true to life, at one point they had video of flags waving on them and it totally looked like real flags, and another time they had images of playing cards that spun, it really looked like they were spinning. One thing though that is starting to bug me at concerts, is this increasing trend of directing extremely bright lights at the crowd, not just at the end of a song, but randomly throughout almost every song! I know it's for dramatic effect and it's makes the crowd feel like part of the show, but I found myself squinting and blocking the light from my eyes to avoid temporary blindness.
For the show itself, I wasn't disappointed, thought they didn't play anything from the brilliant Quadrophenia or the Who Sell Out and it definitely dragged during the middle portion of the show, lots of newer songs occasionally interupted by a classic such as Behind Blue Eyes and Baba O'Riley, and it gave many of the older folks in the audience an opportunity to go to the bathroom or refill their beer. The show picked up the pace towards the end of the set, with favs such as My Generation and Won't Get Fooled Again. The highlight for me, despite the guitar/amp tech trouble (that delayed the show for the second time) that caused a not-so-dramatic beginning to Pinball Wizard, was the mini-Tommy set for the encore, Pinball Wizard/Amazing Journey/Sparks/ See Me, Feel Me, all back to back, this gave Townsend a chance to showcase his incredible playing on his Strat, this was almost worth the price of admission alone. The second encore was Pete and Roger only, with a acoustic piece, Tea And Theatre, which was a fitting end to the show as it is easier to make people go home after a slow song. All in all a fun time, I think Jesse enjoyed the show, I had a chance to see one of my favourite all-time bands and the Who showed they weren't a dated act by demonstrating after over 40 years together, they can still create new and challenging music and not rely exclusively on their hits. A co-worker of mine stood 7th row, middle on the floor and she said she could see how hard the band was trying, giving their all for their fans that paid big bucks to see them, as opposed to when she saw CSNY this July, she felt they were going through the motions. In this case, we're glad they didn't die before they got old or had a chance to return to Winnipeg.
Photos taken by Melanie Matwichuk I didn't record the show (I was way too far away, and the sound close to the roof wasn't great), but if you want a recording of this or any other show on this tour, visit www.themusic.com.
Setlist: Winnipeg, MTS Centre October 3, 2006 I Can't Explain, The Seeker, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Fragments, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Real Good Looking Boy, Sound Round, Pick Up The Peace, Endless Wire, We Got A Hit, They Made My Dream Come True, Mirror Door, Baba O'Riley, Eminence Front, Man In A Purple Dress, Mike Post Theme, You Better You Bet, My Generation, Won't Get Fooled Again, Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel Me, Tea And Theatre
I have some catching up to do, Billy Bragg was in town last week and I'm finally getting around to posting the show over at Dimeadozen and tonight I'm off to see the Who! I just got some freebees from the boss as she was probably fed up with my whining about the high ticket prices. Granted I'll be in highest section of the upper deck corner, but I guess seeing a legendary band 30 years past it's prime should still be a thrill. In my personal top 10 (a later subject?) of bands to see before I die, the Who would definitely be up there, especially circa 1969-74. I still haven't seen the Stones or the Kinks, but this could be the last chance to see Pete and Roger together as I'm sure one of them is due to die soon. Pete Townsend is one of my guitar heroes, he's one of my musical influences both guitar playing and songwriting, his onstage antics and the energy he puts into a live show make him a must-see.
Speaking of must-sees, Billy Bragg played here on September 26th at the Venue , or I think it's called the Garrick at the Ramada Centre, now. Regardless this hall is a much needed concert venue for the city as it's size accommodates a capacity of 700, smaller the Burt, yet larger than the WECC. There's lots of floor space to stand and the seating sightlines are decent. My only quibble would be the blandness and hollowness of the hall itself, I don't know, maybe they should put in some cash for some quality acoustics or something? The only other time I've seen Billy Bragg was at the Folk Festival and I always said I'd like to see him in a more intimate venue and to hear a complete "Billy Bragg experience". A Bragg show is half music/half talk and depending on your mood (and his) the banter can be more interesting. He always has lots to say touching on everything from politics, patron saints, Youtube, cynicism and his new book. Nothing beats the ringing of his trademark Telecaster sound and his instantly recognizable Cockney accent. Singing classics like Greetings From The New Brunette, Waiting for the Great Leap Forward and A New England makes it feel like 1990 again. Despite the electric guitar and his leftist punk outlook on life, Billy Bragg is a folk singer and will always be a folk singer, who slags the rich and seeks justice and human rights for the working poor and the poor working. In the world of superficial pop superstars and hip hop nonsense, it's refreshing to see a performer stick to the same morals and standards he set out with when he first started performing. Billy said "that while songwriter's can't change the world, they keep trying because the alternative is too unthinkable. The alternative is to give in, to give in to cynicism. The greatest enemy of those of us who want to change the world isn't conservatism, and it isn't even capitalism, it's cynicism."