Monday, January 19th, 2009

Yuppy Flu

Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI figure that by the end of last Thursday night, there was something like a sixty-degree centigrade difference in temperature between the patio at the Horseshoe and the front of the stage. Outside, it was the middle of a particularly nasty cold snap. Inside, it was a particularly intense show for a nearly-packed house from Land Of Talk.

It was a show a long time in coming. For the band, it was their first headlining date in a long time – their headlining tour in September to mark the release of Some Are Lakes, itself long-awaited, and while they technically made a Toronto appearance in late November opening for Broken Social Scene, there were many who wouldn’t accept an abbreviated set in an inhospitable venue. That included myself, whom after seeing them what seemed like every other week back in 2007, hadn’t seen them play since September 2007.

It’s been tough going for the band, with what had initially seemed like an unstoppable upwards trajectory turn into a seemingly endless series of stalls. In particular, a series of personnel changes that saw 2/3 of the initial lineup depart since the release of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss and health issues that were making this mini-tour of three Ontario dates the band’s last for some time. Not really ideal circumstances to promote a new record. But those were concerns for the past and the future – in the present, Land Of Talk were finally here and they’d brought friends with them from Montreal.

Little Scream were one of those most unique of acts – the ones without a website, MySpace or any information that I could find online – and as such, were a completely unknown quantity going in. Which was rather exciting, to be honest. And the reality of it wasn’t bad, either. An artist to whom a lot of the descriptors frequently used for Land Of Talk could also apply, singing with a PJ Harvey-ish intensity while playing riffs that echoed classic rock progressions (think Who) on an acoustic guitar amplified to the point of raggedness. At points, it seemed she was singing to herself in a trance rather than to the audience. Intriguing stuff, wish it were at all possible to find out more.

Zeroes were considerably less singular in their approach, flirting with pop, prog, new wave and punk that reminded me most of Wire and Franz Ferdinand. Some ideas worked better than others, but they veered from one to the next so quickly that any missteps were quickly left behind and the next brought to the fore. Unfailingly interesting and danceable, if you dance like a bit of a spaz.

Though the material is consistently superb, I’ve always found Land Of Talk to be a good to very good live act, with the obvious potential to be great but not quite hitting the target, at least not in any of the times I’d seen them. That, based on this show, is no longer the case. The trio put on an unquestionably powerful show, Liz Powell in particular displaying a sense of confidence that I hadn’t seen before. They split the set fairly evenly between Applause Cheer and Some Are Lakes material, with the latter being given a jolt of energy and excitement that I didn’t find to be present on the recorded versions. The album definitely succeeded in terms of stylistic growth, but it came at the expense of some of the live-wire sizzle of the first record. Translated live, the electricity was back.

And while I was dismayed by the departures of Bucky Wheaton and Chris McCarron, the rhythm section to which I’d first come to the band, new arrivals Andrew Barr – who played on the new album – and bassist Joe Yarmush – who also played in Zeroes but took the time to change outfits between sets – were also superb. Circumstances have dictated that Land Of Talk be considered the Liz Powell show, but her bandmates were doing their best to seem just as indispensable.

The show was a tremendous reminder of why Land Of Talk are one of the best new acts in the country, and ironically it came just as the band was going on hiatus. Though you couldn’t tell by listening, Powell is going in for surgery on her voice at month’s end and everything is on hold while she convalesces. It’s a good thing that Land Of Talk’s fans are used to waiting and know that it’s worth it.

eye and BlogTO also have reviews of the show, while The Whig Standard has a short feature and in The Globe & Mail, Carl Wilson talks to Powell about the band’s endless run of tough breaks.

Photos: Land Of Talk, Zeroes, Little Scream @ The Horseshoe – January 15, 2009
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MP3: Zeroes – “Arenas”
MP3: Zeroes – “Lamentia”
MP3: Zeroes – “Optimist”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MySpace: Land Of Talk

Aquarium Drunkard interviews The Rosebuds. JamBase also has a feature.

The Sydney Morning Herald profiles Annie Clark of St Vincent.

Dr Dog, who released Fate last year, and The Cave Singers, who are still working 2007’s Invitation Songs, will be in town together on April 4 for a show at Lee’s Palace, tickets $13.50.

MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Old Days”
MP3: Dr. Dog – “The Ark”
MP3: The Cave Singers – “Seeds Of Night”

Following up the release of As Seen Through Windows on March 10, Bell Orchestre will play the Courthouse on April 24, tickets $15.

The Toronto Star talks to Bret and Jemaine of Flight Of The Conchords.

By : Frank Yang at 8:11 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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  1. Bruce says:

    Frank – good to hear you survived without getting heat stroke. I barely did, but it was a great show in spite of it. Little Scream – definitely interesting watching her waging a guitar/voice battle (I was hearing Barracuda-era Heart riffs in with the Who). She came over afterwards to hang with some dudes near me, and spoiled the illusion of being an alien creature, as she seemed such a regular gal. Really enjoyed Zeroes, some of which was indeed very Wire-y, and also brought to mind Sons of Freedom (rhythmically, anyway). Maybe it was the serious low end they were pumping out. If you heard a girl loudly demanding that Land of Talk play “It’s Okay”, then screaming throughout it when they did, yeah, she was standing/table dancing right beside me.

  2. Phan says:

    Don’t miss Dr. Dog. Listen to their c.d.s, esp., “We All Belong”, “Easy Beat”, and the new one, “Fate” from front to back, and then, go and see them Live. You will not be disappointed. They are so fun and laid-back/sincere band that loves playing live. They have as much fun as their audience.

  3. News Update! « Singing Lamb says:

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  4. Land Of Talk breaks silence with tour, new EP | MP3 Music at MixBurner says:

    […] a short bit of local touring around the end of January, including an excellent long-awaited show at the Horseshoe, the band had to go on an extended break while frontwoman Liz Powell underwent and recovered from […]

  5. Land Of Talk and Suuns at Lee’s Palace in Toronto | MP3 Music at MixBurner says:

    […] (and yet in many was maddeningly the same) from what it was when I last saw Land Of Talk live, in January 2009 at The Horseshoe. Liz Powell and a different crew from which I’d first discovered them 30 […]

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