Burton Cummings & His Band – CNE Bandshell, Toronto

Canadian rock legend Burton Cummings took the Bandshell stage on the opening night of the Ex, to a record-breaking crowd. No surprise there, as generations of fans crowded the grounds, singing along to dozens of solo and Guess Who classics as well as some choice golden oldie covers

 

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Blondie with Deap Vally “Rage and Rapture Tour” 07/26/17 Toronto

The Sony Centre hosted a fantastic lineup showcasing the lineage of powerful women at the forefront of rock and roll.
Kicking the night off was California’s Deap Vally, a hard garage rock duo featuring Julie Edwards and Lindsey Troy. Rooted in swampy blues Deap Valley, glammed out in sequins and big big hair, was last in Toronto opening for Wolfmother and we can’t wait to see them again!

Scroll down after the photos for a clip of “Smile More”

 

Next on the roster was Garbage.

 

Last but certainly not least was Blondie. There’s not much I can say about Debbie & Co. that hasn’t been said better for the last 40 years. Decked out in a bee costume (latest album: Pollinator) with a cape that read “STOP FUCKING THE PLANET” Debbie Harry sounded absolutely amazing. Preening and posing for the crowd, shaking hands and commanding the stage in fine form. This one was definitely a bucket list for me. Also if you’re on Facebook (it’s on the internet) make sure to follow guitarist Chris Stein, a talented photographer who has documented the NYC scene from the band’s early days, right up until today

Blondie

 

Deap Vally

Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression Tour, Toronto

The Ultimate Survivor. The Godfather of Punk. Iggy Pop.

I have gone on and on about Iggy in the past so i will spare you the fan gushing.

This time around Mr. Pop has joined forces with Josh Homme, Dean Fertita and Matt Helders, of Queens of The Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys, respectively

If you’re familiar with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (and if you’re not, we need to have a serious talk) you’ll recall that an aging, reclusive Batman takes on the streets one last time. Realizing his own mortality and physical limits he doesn’t go it alone. The Batman myth inspired a legion of mutants, wandering the streets making noise and scaring the shit out of anyone that deserved it. Under Batman’s guidance they find purpose. There is a beautiful violent harmony.

Iggy Pop, too, has spawned generations of angry, noisy vigilantes. Raised on dirty, swampy Mid-Western pre-punk, the Children of Pop aim to destroy the fabric of a superficial society and awful, complacent rock ‘n roll. On Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista Recordings), the generation gap is closed as some of the most promising disciples are anointed by their spiritual leader, and He too enjoys the fruits of his painful labour, without having to rest on his laurels.

The record is fucking fantastic, which nobody doubted. On stage, Iggy continues to be simultaneously menacing, playful, engaging and aloof. Nobody comes close to Iggy Pop. As seasoned and dynamic as his bandmates are during their day jobs, they know their role. They constantly pile on the dirty grooves that drive Iggy’s career-spanning set (well, solo career. Stooges-era work was conspicuously absent). Also can we just take a moment to admire that they open with Lust For Life. Not the closer, not encore-bait. They kick you in the balls as soon as the lights go down, and all you can do for the next 90 minutes is close your scream your face off and enjoy the beatdown.

 

Set List

Lust For Life

Sister Midnight

American Valhalla

Sixteen

In The Lobby

Some Weird Sin

Funtime

Tonight

Sunday

German Days

Mass Production

Nightclubbing

Gardenia

The Passenger

China Girl

Break Into Your Heart

Fall In Love With Me

Repo Man

Baby

Chocolate Drops

Paraguay

Success

 

 

Ringo Starr – Massey Hall, Toronto

Peace and Love! Peace and LOVE!

The one and only Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band dropped into a sold-out Massey Hall. Kicking the night off with Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox.” Before kicking it into the insanely upbeat “It Don’t Come Easy” Ringo reluctantly crawled down the stage to take a selfie with a fan. While this sort of thing generally takes the steam right out of the show, it was her sixteenth birthday and it was a pretty cute moment. Featuring Steve Lukather, Todd Rundgren and Greg Rollie the All Starr Band was  well oiled machine rocking through the classics with an energetic and playful Ringo at the helm!

Patti Smith – le poisson rouge, New York City

In 1975, the building at 158 Bleecker street at Thompson was known as The Village Gate. One of many nightclubs and concert venues in Greenwich Village. The basement was known as The Village Gate Theater, a space for cabaret, and more experimental theater performances. It was on this stage in 1975 that Patti Smith premiered a poem entitled “Amelia Earhart.”

Forty years later, Patti Smith stood on that same stage and began her performance by reading that very poem. A few things have changed in those forty years. In 1975 it’s likely the poem was scribbled in a notebook full of unfinished ideas, lyrics, rants, maybe doodles. In 2015 she read the poem from her published collection appropriately entitled “Early Works.” and The Village Gate Theater is now known as le poisson rouge. It was all a bit surreal to witness.

I won’t even begin to describe the impact Patti Smith’s work has had on the punk movement, female musicians, mainstream media, etc. Several writers have done so far more eloquently than I ever could, and at this point, it’s ubiquitous.

What I will say, however is that this night was incredibly special for me If this was the only show I experienced during my time in New York I would be completely fulfilled. The Patti Smith Group, along with the Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, Blondie and The Ramones helped created the New York City that I fell in love with through sound and imagery. One that I knew I could never experience. A New York City that is lost and has been eulogized a thousand times over. “I Miss Old New York” bumper stickers are found in my favourite dives across this town. Change is inevitable. But for one night I felt like I was transported to a time and place I only ever read about and listened to. In a dark basement in Greenwich Village, Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye stood a few feet from me and sang “Land”, “Gloria”, “Because The Night”, “People Have The Power”, and “Run Run Run”, a beautiful tribute to the late Lou Reed, among many, many others.

The night was put together by Patti and her daughter Jesse, who are both supporters of Dr. Ken Kobayashi a doctor of alternative medicine. All proceeds and donations went to wards Dr. Kobayashi’s beautiful healing retreat called Honzo Haven in upstate New York.

The night opened with Jesse and Tibetan vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tenzin Choegyal. She sheepishly introduced their first set as “very different from the second one you will see tonight” and indeed it was. A combination of Jesse’s beautiful piano, soft spoken word and Tenzin’s dranyen (Tibetan lute) and lingbu (transverse bamboo flute) and his impressive Tibetan throat singing.

The crowd of aging punks up front stood attentively, and duly applauded after each performance. After Jesse and Tenzin a promotional video for Honzo Haven was shown followed by a brief Q& A with Dr. Kobayashi.

Finally, Patti took the stage with the great Lenny Kaye and the room was just electric. She began the night with a reading of the aforementioned “Amelia Earhart” and then improvised a little song about receiving her first acupuncture treatment from Dr. Kobayashi in which she confessed her fear of needles and the laughable irony of that statement.

Short of “reviewing” the show, which i don’t feel qualified to do, nor required to, I will say that it was a sweet, family affair. Mother and daughter argued in between songs, apologized for lack of rehearsal and Jesse reminded her mom that she once bought her a toaster…it was charming. Patti was in a great mood, smiling and chatting with the crowd but it wasn’t until the performance of “Horses” that she was transformed. Her expression grew fierce, her eyes closed tight and she began to grip those imaginary reigns and her passion of that original composition came bursting off that stage. It was absolutely magical to witness the transformation.

Jesse Smith and Tenzin Choegyal

 

Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye and Jesse Smith

Sundown at 40 – Gordon Lightfoot Tribute Concert, Toronto

I’ve been trying to come up with a half decent intro for this post but everything I write seems like recycled, hackneyed music journalism cliches. I really can’t sum up Gordon Lightfoot’s career or “Sundown” the 1974 album that was celebrated at this show. All I can say is that Tom Wilson gathered some of the country’s best singers and performers to pay tribute to the man, and the record, performing it in its entirety as well as other Lightfoot classics.

The man himself was in attendance and performed 2 solo numbers and an uplifting, emotional ensemble finale. It was a beautiful night honouring a musical legend.

Those are the facts, and I can do no better justice trying to describe what an amazing night it was.

Performers included Tom Wilson (with LeE HARVey OsMOND), Scarlett Jane, Harlan Pepper, Terra Lightfoot, Ron Sexsmith, Dan Romano, Jacob Moon, Jory Nash and Aaron Goldstein.

Thanks to Tom Wilson for graciously putting this night together, and of course thank you Gord for a timeless classic.