It’s been an active week on the local music scene (local meaning “me”). I’ve been to three concerts in one week, and I even squeezed in a visit back home for Thanksgiving. But you don’t want to hear about all that. It’s all about the music, man.
Wednesday, October 6
Massey Hall, Toronto ON
It’s nothing short of a miracle that Brian Wilson has finished up his legendary album Smile, that it lives up to 37 years’ worth of hype, and that he’s performing it onstage. Too bad about the jackass who managed to spoil it for me. I had a fantastic seat in the fourth row, but unfortunately, this character had a slightly better seat—right in front of me. Picture a pudgy guy in a Grateful Dead T-shirt with a sad little ponytail stretched over his bald spot. Then make his neck hairier. Go on. No, hairier than that. Sticking right out of his shirt. There. Gross, isn’t he?
He actually started out sitting one seat to the left of the empty one in front of me, and annoyingly, he stretched out his hairy arm across the back of the seat in front of me, right in my field of vision. The seat bottoms pull forward and this mechanism reclines the backrest by a bit, so I sharply kicked the bottom of the seat forward and his arm suddenly dropped a few inches. But he left it there. Until showtime, that is, when both his hands were required for clapping, usually at double the rate of the song’s actual beat, and often above his head, blocking my view. Moving over in front of me, he weaved his whole body back and forth through my field of view, kind of “rocking out.” At one point, he was dancing some kind of shoegazer version of the Twist. A couple of times, he raised his lighter into the air, and once he hailed Brian with a double devil-horns sign. That’s right, the devil horns. For Brian Wilson. The guy who held prayer meetings during the making of Pet Sounds. We’re not exactly talking about Megadeth or Slayer here.
The dork got so irritating that I nearly grabbed him by the ponytail, yanked him back down in his seat, and hissed, “If you don’t settle down, you’re not going to make it to hear ‘Vegetables’ without becoming one!” (Beach Boys fans would get that threat.) But I just settled for preventing him from shaking his whole row with his headbanging by pressing his foot against the back of his seat so firmly that it didn’t have any give.
The show itself was fine. The string section was actually a highlight. Since they don’t always have stuff to do, they get to play with props and ham it up a lot. And they’re a cute bunch of Swedes. I think Brian missed a good opportunity for a Smile in-joke by not calling them the Swedish Frogs. (If you don’t get that, well, I did say it was an in-joke.)
Funny thing about Brian—he mimes his lyrics very literally. For example, he’ll sing, “Out in the barnyard, the cook is chopping lumber” while making a chopping motion with his hand. Or while singing the lyric, “Eat a lot, sleep a lot, brush ’em like crazy,” he’ll mime forking food into his mouth, then cover his eyes, then scrub in front of his mouth with a finger. He’d make a good children’s entertainer, like Raffi.
Saturday, October 9
Massey Hall, Toronto ON
Back to Massey Hall again—if only it were so easy. The venue is about a 15-minute subway ride from my house, which is in the east end of Toronto, so it ought to have been easy to get there by the 8:00 p.m. scheduled start time. However, at 7:00, before I’d even gotten showered or dressed, I realized in horror that—holy Jesus fuck!—I’d left my ticket at work—in Mississauga, the neighboring city to the west, about an hour’s commute away. I jumped into the shower, then into my pants, and then ran out the door. I ran to the bank machine, then over to the subway. I stood there waiting for the train a couple of minutes—oh shit oh shit oh shit!—then rode all the way out west to Islington station, fretting about whether or not I’d be able to get into my office with only my electronic key fob. It being about 8:00 at this point, I grabbed a cab, rode up to work, had the cabbie leave the meter running, got into the building, ran upstairs, grabbed my ticket, ran back down, jumped into the cab, then rode back to the station. There, I jumped on a train immediately, rode down to Bloor and Yonge, sprinted for my connecting train, and ran to Queen station. From there, I ran up Yonge St. to Massey Hall, got through the door, climbed up about four flights of stairs, and sat down literally as the band went on at 9:00 p.m. I didn’t miss a single second of the show. Thank god that these bands don’t seem to ever go onstage on time.
I didn’t actually get to sit in my seat, because the woman who had the seat beside me was so grotesquely obese that she filled both her seat and mine. She ought to have bought two seats, in all fairness. Fortunately, I just got bumped up to the seat in front of the one I should have been in. Of course, it was still a shitty seat—second balcony, behind a pole, but I was just glad to be there. Even if the $40 cab ride had cost me almost as much as the face value of the ticket, it would have still cost far more to go to a scalper and buy another ticket.
The band had skipped the soundcheck, and there was some unintentional feedback in the first couple of songs, not that I could tell it wasn’t on purpose, given the band’s recent musical direction. Jeff Tweedy did put an excruciatingly long sonic representation of a migraine headache on the latest album, after all. To make up for this, he vowed to play an extra long set, and they did go quite a while. Pretty good on the whole, but it didn’t match the first time I saw them, at Convocation Hall in 2002.
Morrissey (with the Dears)
Tuesday, October 12
Hummingbird Centre, Toronto ON
This time, I arrived in plenty of time—too early, in fact. So, to kill time, I stopped by the McDonald’s in Union Station and ate a Big Mac combo, knowing full well how much it would offend Morrissey, whose old band once released an album called Meat Is Murder. Sure enough, during the show, he was his animal-loving self, demanding to know why we Canadians put up with the clubbing of baby seals. We don’t care! I didn’t shout back. Just sing the songs, Hairdo!
While I think it’d be an amusing change of pace if it would happen to, say, bassist Gary Day once in a while, no less than 52 fans had invaded the stage to hug, kiss, or otherwise manhandle Morrissey by the end of the show. Of these, my favorite was #21, a cute girl who demurely walked up to him with her shoulder bag tucked neatly under her arm, politely kissed him on the cheek, and then returned to the audience unhurriedly before security managed to reach her. Very classy as far as stage invasions go, and she actually got a round of applause. While some of the others kind of knocked Morrissey around, it’s apparently all right with him. For one thing, it’s obvious that the security guards are under orders to let each fan actually reach him for a token handshake even after being intercepted (albeit under escort) before being removed from the stage. And for another, if he really wanted to put an end to stage invasions, he’d play behind a chain-link fence like Jeff Healey in Roadhouse.
Great show overall. The Dears were plainly excited to be opening for one of their major influences. Mozzer was charismatic, and he had his name up behind him in giant neon letters like Elvis. That’s pretty much what being a rock star is all about.
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