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June 9th, 2010
There are two different ways to understand this concert review.
If You Like Cooking:
Take two completely different bands from two separate continents
Add to your typical boring Monday night
Soak in a healthy splash of surprise and good times until sweetened
Apply liberally to ears
If you like Math:
Athlete + Carney + Lee’s Palace = GOOD TIMES
It’s pretty rare for me to go to a show and like the opener as much as the headliner. Usually it’s one or the other, right, because you can’t have your awesome music cake and eat it too. So I wasn’t expecting to even like Carney, not least because their band name reminds me of the less savoury types manning the late-night BB-gun games at the CNE. But truth be told, they were super solid musically, and wicked fun to listen to.
The crowd was probably as sceptical as I was when these four guys from LA got up on stage in suspenders and slacks, but by mid-set people were really getting into the music, cheering and hollering after every track the band played. Frontman Reeve Carney seems to approach the microphone like a cross between a screeching Matthew Bellamy of Muse and the eccentric swagger of the Von Bondies’ Jason Stollsteimer. And lead guitarist Zane Carney is kind of a fiend in his own right – just listen to the solo on their single.
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These guys have a sound that can’t quite be pinned down, as every song seems to change genre, and not in a bad way. From the lightly frantic jazz tones of “Amelie”, to the bluesy “Testify” or the prowling rock riffs on “Love Me Chase Me”, Carney only stays in one place long enough to leave a mark before they’re gone.
They’ve got a good respect for the classics and pleasing the crowd, too, and they dug out nothing less than Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the Beatles’ “I Want You/ She’s So Heavy” mid-set, just so the audience would know something they played. It was completely awesome, full stop. The set ended with a madly cheering audience, most of whom flocked off to buy the band’s Mr. Green Volume 1 CD as soon as intermission hit.
With all that enthusiasm spent on the opening band, you wouldn’t think the crowd would have had anything left for Athlete, who stopped into Lee’s on their North American tour. But you’d be completely wrong. The band, in town to play songs from their fourth album Black Swan, had the whole house behind them from the start.
I’ve seen these poppy Brits play a few times since they supported Snow Patrol’s “Final Straw” tour, and they impressed me so much I’ve gone to gush at all their Toronto shows since. With songs so anthemic it’s like a pandemic (I just made that up RIGHT NOW), they had even the manly men in the front row – heck, even the club’s bouncer – singing along with their heartfelt tunes of love, loss, and all the grey zones in between.
For all that, frontman Joel Pott was all about charming the audience. When the band experienced technical difficulties before the first song of their set and Pott couldn’t hear himself in the monitors, the audience enthusiastically hollered “You sound great!”, to which Pott replied “Yeah, I know that, but I want to be able to hear myself ‘cause I sound so good.”
Black Swan has no bones about staying true to Athlete’s signature sound. Sometimes moody, sometimes happy, often reflective but always catchy, new songs like “Black Swan Song” and “The Getaway” are sure to please old fans, and anyone who wishes Coldplay was still touring A Rush of Blood to the Head.
Luckily, the band accepts their place in the musical spectrum with a smile – even when, launching into encore opener “Rubik’s Cube”, Pott forgets the words to the song. “I might have just forgotten the lyrics,” he says boldfaced, and when the audience laughs, replies “This is meant to be a quiet moment, this is not meant to be funny,” but of course he’s laughing too.
Carney’s Set List
To Love and Betray
Tomorrow’s Another Day
I Want You/She’s So Heavy
Love Me Chase Me
Athlete’s Set List
Black Swan Song
You Got the Style