Sunday, April 17th, 2005

Heavy Lifting

Someone ask me how the Ambulance Ltd show in Toronto was last night. Go on, ask me. “Hey Frank, how was the Ambulance show last night?” “SHORT!” I’m talking George Lucas movie central casting short. It’s a shame that that should be the thing that sticks out in my mind the most from this show, but when the headliner plays for under an hour including encore…

Anyway – let’s start at the beginning. The two local openers for this show were acts I’d seen before some time ago and who didn’t make much of an impression the first time around. I was curious to see how they compared now. First was Nassau, who I saw with The Wrens last February, and I think I had the exact same reaction as I did then. Brit-influenced rock dragged down by an excessively lumbering rhythm section. The drummer hit em hard but lacked any of the finesse that might have given the tunes some sort of jump. This is especially ironic considering the band is fronted by ex-GBV drummer Jon McCann, who is probably exponentially better behind the kit than the guy they have. There were a couple tunes that had a bit of energy to them, but they were sadly outnumbered by the plodding ones. Next.

I saw Boy about a year and a half ago opening for Metric at the Horseshoe. Back then, they were a coffee house-ish singer-songwriter folk/pop outfit. Well I guess someone attended some focus group meetings since then, because Boy is now a full-out retro rock machine that sounds suspiciously fashionable. Bouncing around the stage with all the energy that Nassau lacked, they churned out some decent if rote rock’n’roll that was equal parts classic hand-on-hip Stones swagger and 90s “Mad for it” Britpop. Not the sort of thing that really got my engine revving, but good warmup nonetheless.

I’ve already complained about the brevity of the headliner set, so I’ll just let that go and comment on the performance itself, for as long as it lasted. Opening with “Yoga Means Union”, they followed with the next two songs off of LP and I wondered for a moment if they were just going to play the album start to finish (though if they had, it would have probably been a longer show… whoops, there I go again). They filled the middle portion of the set with some new material and wrapped up with the singles from the album, before returning for a one-song encore that was a cover I can’t place (if anyone knows, let me know). They may not have been up there long, but singer/guitarist Marcus Congleton was working up a good sweat anyway, much to the delight of the sizable female portion of the audience.

Since I saw them at SxSW last month, I had a fair idea of what to expect from the show, and again, they were quite polished in their presentation if not particularly animated. They certainly managed to exude an air of aloofness that actually worked with their New York cool mystique, but they said they were really happy to be here so we could probably just take their word for it. Musically, they’ve stripped away much of the atmospherics that make the recorded versions of the songs so interesting, instead favouring a drier, punchier presentation. Luckily, the songs are, for the most part, strong enough to impress in whichever context.

So yeah, I guess I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by the show. Neither opener really did much for me and the headliners called it a day just as things were really getting going. It seems gauche to try and break it down to an entertainment-for-dollar equation, but… I’m glad it wasn’t an expensive ticket. Oh well. Photos here. Man those Mod Club lights are crazy.

Chart has the scoop on the new Broken Social Scene records. That’s, right, records. Plural. They’ve got three albums worth of material and will be staggering releases starting the Fall.

It finally has a name! Fountains Of Wayne’s oft-delayed b-sides comp will come out June 28 bearing the monicker of Out-Of-State Plates and to make up for the delay, it’ll be a double-disc set. Billboard has full details, including the fact that it in addition to boasting a couple of new tracks, it will mark the first official release of their “…Baby, One More Time” cover. They originally recorded it way back in 1999, but refused to release it as the label wanted to make it a single and they were wary of being labelled as a novelty act or a one-hit wonder. Nope, they held their ground and it eventually paid off as they’re now recognized as being the purveyors of that artistic monument known as “Stacy’s Mom”.

The Go! Team will be at Lee’s Palace July 13. I know some people who are going to be very happy about this one.

His Name Is Alive has been added as support for Low’s June 4 show at the Opera House. I just got The Great Destroyer yesterday, and like it quite a bit. This will be a good show.

np – Low / The Great Destroyer

By : Frank Yang at 9:47 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Jake says:

    Maybe I’m getting old, but I really sort of like it when a band plays for under an hour. I mean, really, do you need any more Ambulance than that? Don’t you just start yawning after a while?

  2. terry jacks says:

    I agree. An hour’s worth of Ambulance is more than enough. And if you just saw ’em at SXSW, why see them again within a month? Yawn. As I get older, I find that not only do I appreciate shorter sets, but I get tired of seeing the same bands over and over again.

  3. Frank says:

    yeah, I hear ya. It didn’t ruin my evening or anything, but I generally expect at least an hour from the headliner, regardless of who it is. Ambulance didn’t quite make that. I think it’s less about feeling like I got my money’s worth than the impression that the band just wants to get out of there as soon as possible.

    My old man thing is that I’d rather they play a longer set, but start the damn shows earlier. I don’t mind going out earlier if it means I can get home at a reasonable hour. I was home by 10:30 last night. That was an upside.

  4. mr g says:

    holy crap. thanks for the bss heads-up, three albums…ko-s involvement…wowy-wow-wow-wow. with multiple bss & fiery furnaces releases coming in the next year or so, i’ve got a lot to look forward to.

    imo, the appriate length of a rock set depends on the band. some can play a satisfying ballsout rock set in 40 minutes, others can keep it going for hours. my level of patience, however, varies depending on my mood.

  5. Aaron says:

    Ambulance’s encore tune was a cover of Pink Floyd’s "Fearless" from the Meddle album. They actually did a note-for-note cover. Sounded pretty good. They’re pretty odd with their choice of covers, from The Breeders’ "Invisible Man" to VU’s "I’ll Be Your Mirror" and "The Ocean." As long as they don’t succumb to covering Lindsay Lohan or Kelly Clarkson they’ll be all right.

  6. mike says:

    RE: that Go! Team show….I just checked the Lee’s site. I don’t wanna get anyone all gussied up in case I’m wrong, but I think that’s the same night as the Raveonettes show. Can anyone confirm?

  7. mike says:

    whoa! I am way wrong. Never mind that above comment.


  8. ts says:

    40 minutes is enough when you have a drab band like Ambulance (in my opinion) who have little to show. The fact remains, if you only have that much material and need to resort to covers to fill up time, should you even be a headliner? I recently saw Toots and the Maytals at Lee’s – quite the older gent – pushing out awesome song after awesome song for over 2 hours. Now that’s a headliner!

  9. cassandra says:

    I thought the length of the set was just fine; I mean, how much longer could you have expected them to play, with what material they have? Only one album, right? I didn’t notice that it was short, in fact, it seemed quite on the money :)

  10. Frank says:

    they could have played Sugar Pill… I dunno, I was just surprised when they went into Heavy Lifting, thus indicating the end of the set. I was just getting into the groove of it all.

  11. jrmy says:

    Ambulance Ltd came to Providence towards the end of last year and put on a great show. I don’t remember the length of the set, but I think it was just about an hour, maybe a little more. I got to talk to them after the set, and they were really nice… but exhausted. I guess they’re somewhat new-ish to heavy touring, and have been going nonstop for a while now. That might account for the brevity of their set up your way. According to the bass player, they also have a "no-Sugar Pill" policy in most sets now, since it was one of the first songs they wrote, and he said that they’re sick of it. Which is unfortunate for me, since it’s one of my favorite songs of theirs…

  12. Knox says:

    I think all bands should open rock shows with instrumentals. Yoga..was awesome, too bad they couldn’t really maintain the momentum. Heavy Lifting was great, but they should have jammed it out more, and turned it into a 8 minute rock song. Instead they played the exact album cut, including the "oooOOoohh" denouement.

  13. Bryan says:

    I relate to your comments about Boy. I remember seeing their first video on "The Wedge" in Feb 2003 (the same day my friend Ryan, who’d performed as Boy, and released an album under the name in 1996, played his last ever show, ironically) and dismissed it as generic Brit-Pop/folk. Of course the name thing probably didn’t win them over for me. Yesterday before school, I turned on Much Mega Hits, and saw a video by a band playing a fashionable Velvets-like garage rock, and was surprised it was Boy. I had the same "Focus group" sense you did to this direction they’ve taken.

  14. Charles says:

    I thought Nassau we’re great! If you wan’t an upbeat pop outfit look elsewhere… I was happy Ambulance called it quits when they did, they seemd less than thrilled to be there. I would hardly consider it a cohesive set either… maybe they should head off to the focus group!