Mew – Mod Club Toronto, 10th August

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Words and photos by Tim Darbyshire. Danish band Mew have recently released ‘Visuals’ their fifth studio album and just embarked on their ‘2017 Visuals North American Tour’ to promote it. I caught up with the band at Toronto’s Mod Club.

Mew are no strangers to the intimate Mod Club, having last played here in 2009. Their last visit to Toronto was in 2015 when they played at Lee’s Palace, a show at which although Mew delivered musically was strangely bereft of their intoxicating visual show. Happily Mew delivered on both fronts this time in front of an appreciative near sell out crowd.

Compared to previous Mew albums, ‘Visuals’ has a lighter, more poppy feel.  It sounds very smooth with infectious catchy melodies throughout.  Live, the new material merged seamlessly with older songs as the band flawlessly delivered an eclectic crowd pleasing set.

Mew started proceedings with ‘In A Better Place’ from the new album – one of five new songs – before heading into more familiar territory with ‘Special’ and ‘The Zookeeper’s Boy’, from 2005’s ‘And The Glass Handed Kites’. The show had many highlights, including ‘Introducing Palace Players’ from 2009’s ‘No More Stories’ , ‘Satellites’ from ‘Plus Minus’ and ‘Snow Brigade’ from 2003’s groundbreaking ‘Frengers’ album.  The extended encore ended with three more cuts from ‘Frengers’ – ‘Am I Wry, No’, ‘156’ and perhaps Mew’s defining song,  ‘Comforting Sounds’.

Mew are a cohesive live unit, full time members Jonas Bjerre (vocals/guitar), Johan Wohlert (bass) and Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen (drums) are joined by long time collaborator Nick Watts on keyboards and by guitarist Mads Wegner who undertook the arduous task of replacing founding member Bo Madsen on stage in 2015.

Especially impressive is the tight rhythm section, underpinning Jonas Bjerre’s uplifting vocals and Mads Wegner’s angular guitar work. The show is equally impressive visually, with all manner of projections on the large screen behind the band, after all who can ever get enough of violin playing cats?

‘Visuals’ was released just 2 years after 2015’s ‘Plus Minus’, a break with tradition for Mew who typically take their time between albums. Hopefully this trend continues and the Danes return to North America in the near future.

Set List
Mew , The Mod Club Toronto – 10th August 2017

In A Better Place
Special
The Zookeeper’s Boy
Satellites
Ay Ay Ay
Introducing Palace Players
Twist Quest
Start
Water Slides
Snow Brigade
Apocalypso
Saviours Of Jazz Ballet
Carry Me To Safety
—————————
Nothingness and No Regrets
Am I Wry, No
156
Comforting Sounds

 

Adrian Belew Power Trio – Live at The Mod Club, Toronto

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As The Adrian Belew Power Trio enters its last week of a mammoth 50 date North American and European tour, I caught the band at The Mod Club in Toronto. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

After playing The Mod Club in late 2014, Adrian Belew made a welcome return to the Mod Club last night, ably supported as ever by Julie Slick on bass and Tobias Ralph on drums.  Adrian and co treated the enthusiastic crowd to an eclectic mix of solo material and King Crimson numbers throughout the two hour show split over two sets.

Adrian Belew famously fronted legendary progressive band King Crimson for 30 years – unfortunately he’s not part of the current touring King Crimson – as well as working with such luminaries as Talking Heads, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Nine Inch Nails to name but a few. The innovative guitar virtuoso sprinkled the Crimson content liberally throughout the two sets, including crowd favourites ‘Frame By Frame’, ‘Elephant Talk’, ‘Dinosaur’, ‘Neurotica’, ‘Heartbeat’, “One Time’, ‘Three of a Perfect Pair’ and finishing the second set with a rousing rendition of ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’.

The chemistry on stage between the three talented musicians was great to see, clearly they were all enjoying themselves. Using guitar effects and looping phrases, Belew and the band build up an impressive crescendo of sound for just three performers. I’m not normally one for drum solos, but Tobias Ralph proved the exception to the rule with a precise and powerful display towards the end of the first set.

The solo material was as enjoyable, if less familiar – and the balance of old and new seemed about right. Songs ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘E’ and ‘Beat Box Guitar’ allowed more room for expression and improvisation. Hopefully Adrian will return before too long as the performance was at times mesmerising and always entertaining.

2017 is another busy year for the extended King Crimson family. In addition to the Adrian Belew Power Trio, Toronto will see King Crimson play Massey Hall on July 5th, and Stick Men (featuring current  members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto) playing at The Garrison on August 27th. These are shows not to be missed!

 

 

Haken – Mod Club Toronto, 1st September 2016

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Haken’s ‘Affinitour v2.0’ in support of their fourth album ‘Affinity’ has reached Canada and the United States.   I caught the band live at Toronto’s Mod Club. Words and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

‘Affinity’ is already a strong contender to be Album of the Year for many people,  and as the band took to the stage the enthusiastic crowd greeted them like conquering heroes. Kicking off with ‘Initiate’ from the new album and ‘Falling Back To Earth’ (from 2013’s ‘The Mountain’), it was evident that this is a band playing at the top of their game. There’s a visible confidence emanating from all the band, almost a swagger – they know they’re good and they enjoy showing it.

Technically superb,  mixing out and out aural assault with refined quieter passages – where the crowd were almost singing as loudly as vocalist Ross Jennings – Haken deliver dizzying rhythms with rousing melodies. ‘1985’ is the standout track from ‘Affinity’  – keyboardist Diego Tejeide wants a piece of the action and takes centre stage with his keytar. Both guitar players – Rich Henshall and Charlie Griffiths – are playing 8 string guitars and Conner Green’s bass has 6 strings…..this is prog after all.

Most of the set is culled from the last 2 albums (‘Deathless’ and encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ being the exceptions). ‘The Architect’ – the longest track on ‘Affinity’ – takes us on a journey through many styles and allows both guitarists more space to shine with solos. The highlight of the evening for me, and clearly a crowd favourite, is a storming version of ‘Cockroach King’ , complete with its quirky time signatures and Gentle Giant style vocal harmonies, which has the whole club shaking to the rafters.

‘The Endless Knot’ brings the main set to a frenzied finale and the band sign off with encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ from 2010’s debut album ‘Aquarius’.

Haken of course cross the genres. It is heavy, it is loud, but they combine this with subtlety and emotion, weaving an intoxicating medley of styles. It’s all uplifting stuff, the affinity  between the band members themselves and the band and crowd. This is a band on a roll, that seemingly can do no wrong at present – catch them if you can.

My review of Haken’s  ‘Affinity’ album is here.

Setlist:
Affinity.exe
Initiate
Falling Back To Earth
1985
Earthrise
Pareidolia
The Architect
Keyboard Solo
Deathless
Cockroach King
The Endless Knot
Encore:
Celestial Elixir

Haken:
Ross Jennings – vocals
Rich Henshall – guitars
Ray Hearne – drums
Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Diego Tejeida – keyboards
Conner Green – bass

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Tour Dates – Affinitour v2.0 2016

haken tour