Queens Of The Stone Age: Air Canada Centre

Last Tuesday Queens of the Stone Age played an epic rock show at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. QOTSA don’t hold anything back on their live performance; they explode saturating the senses with both auditory and visual excess. Once they start playing there’s no escape from their grip. They make their ballads sound heavy and their rock songs sound like a freaking hurricane.

Josh Homme continuously expressed his gratitude between songs talking the audience and appearing genuinely humbled by people’s response (the crowd at the ACC was on fire). On the role, Josh is the ultimate front man, his guitar playing and his singing is intense but calculated, his attitudes so suave he gives the impression of a postmodern Elvis.

The truth is the entire band is impressive, all of them masters in their craft, all charismatic and cool. I was standing in front of the bass-player, Micky “Shoes” so I got to see his skills and moves up close, which really impressed me. The new drummer John Theodore, former Mars Volta member was also pretty intense with machine-like precision and power. On the opposite side of the stage Troy Van Leeuwen playing guitar, steel guitar and maracas among other instruments and Dean Fertita on keyboard and also guitar (lots of guitars).

They played almost all songs from their new album …Like Clockwork, opening the show with My God is the Sun and then going into Songs for the Deaf mode with You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar… followed by No One Knows. My personal highlights were Better Living Through Chemistry, which happened in front of a giant wall of white noise and the closing with Song for the Dead, which is basically 7 minutes of heavy-metal-punk-heaven.

Here’s Song for the Dead live at Reading. Ready? Full screen mode, volume up and headbang away…

Setlist:
My God Is the Sun
You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
No One Knows
Burn the Witch
First It Giveth
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Kalopsia
In the Fade
…Like Clockwork
If I Had a Tail
Make It Wit Chu
Little Sister
Smooth Sailing
I Sat by the Ocean
Better Living Through Chemistry
Sick, Sick, Sick
Go With the Flow

Encore:
The Vampyre of Time and Memory
I Appear Missing
A Song for the Dead

Bjork: Synthetic Naturalism

Bjork poster by me

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of watching Bjork live at Toronto Echo Beach, her performance inspired me to design this poster and to share my impressions.

Bjork’s concert is an art performance in which she plays with two main concepts; nature and technology. Most of show is accompanied by stunning animations of nature; we see a colony of starfish at super-fast speed while we hear Hidden Place and witness as electric rays are being created by a huge Tesla coil at the top of the stage to the beat of Army of Me. Seems that while we’re constantly reminded of nature, it is technology that does the trick and plugs us in.

Bjork’s presence onstage is impactful beyond her eccentric appearance; a long sleeved super-glittery electric-blue dress and a huge orange wig could not overshadow her voice. Experiencing her voice live impacted me with a whole other level of intensity, recordings do her no justice, her singing is so potent that it casts a spell touching something deep and mysterious.

As you would expect, Bjork is accompanied by incredible musicians too. An awesome percussionist, Manu Delago who delivered one of my favourite moments of the concert by playing a beautiful song on the hang drum, he also played an electric drum kit and a marimba. Also notable, the choir Graduale Nobili a bunch of Icelandic girls, 24 of them to be precise, dressed in shiny tunics supporting Bjork with their backing vocals and their intense dance moves. Finally, the dj/computer/ipad player Matt Robertson who had the ability to transform the concert into a rave remixing the end of Hyperballad with LFO’s Freak and into Pluto.

On our way out of the venue, away from the crowd and heading back to the city, we were walking through Lakeshore Blvd and had the chance to stand on a bridge and overlook into Lake Ontario. It was so dark we couldn’t tell the sky from the water, the only lights being provided by the half moon and its reflection on the lake and by two kayaks holding a flashlight, sliding smoothly through the water. It was very silent but I could still hear the music in my head, Bjork certainly has the perfect soundtrack for a gorgeous evening in the hot Toronto summer.

SETLIST

(Solar Winds)
Cosmogony
Hunter
Thunderbolt
Moon
Crystalline
Hidden Place
Heirloom
One Day
Jóga
Pagan Poetry
Army of Me
Mutual Core
Hyperballad (mixed with “Freak” by LFO)
Plútó
Náttúra

Encore:

Declare Independence

Life

It took me almost a year to read Life, Keith Richards’ tell-all autobiography, which is not even that long if you realize this book is worth more than 5 decades of incredibly detailed anecdotes of a life dedicated to rock & roll.

Since I finished reading the book I’ve been thinking of ways to represent Life and here’s the result.

Life as a series of interconnected events, friends, love, music, memories, actions and reactions, family, growth, pain, death, all linked like a spider web. Life as pieces of a broken mirror reflecting a mythical personality that is demystified through a narrative that is personal, sincere and even vulnerable.

How fascinating it is to see life through someone else’s eyes, to participate for a moment of their dreams and eavesdrop to their most obscure thoughts.

More than Rock & Roll

Pink Floyd’s The Wall is one of the most iconic and influential albums in the history of Rock & Roll. It was written by a very tormented Roger Waters back in 1979 as a a semi autobiographical piece that talks about the loss of his father, failed relationships and dealing with fame, addiction, pain and isolation. However this very intimate story has changed its meaning as The Wall becomes a metaphor of human separation; rich from poor, east from west, capitalism from communism, war from peace, etc.

Last Saturday, July 23 of 2012, I had the privilege of watching The Wall live in Toronto and it was impressive to realize that this show is as relevant today as it ever was. Maybe that’s the reason why Roger Waters is dedicating 2 years to tour the world giving 192 performances of one of the most ambitious and sophisticated shows ever imagined.

“I wanted to make much broader political and humanitarian statements without being preachy in a way that is beautiful rather than ugly.”

The stage features a 120 ft. physical wall that is being built before the audience’s eyes while the band is playing. The wall becomes a canvas to an overflow of graphics that synchronize with the music resulting in overwhelming emotion.

There is a very strong anti-war, anti-capitalism message that is ubiquitous during the show, one of the highlights happening during the song “Goodbye Blue Sky” while an animation of B52’s drops Shell logos and Dollar signs instead of bombs. The song “Mother” becomes a criticism to the government where the main character is a security camera, always watching and “protecting” us.

“This goes beyond rock and roll, this is meant to encourage us to empathizing with others.”

If you haven’t had the chance to watch the show yet, I would strongly encourage you to check out the finale of the tour on July 21 in Quebec City which will include a bigger-than-ever wall of over 250 metres.

 

Originally posted at Hypenotic.