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!

 

 

Stick Men – The Mod Club, Toronto – 30th April 2016

To promote the forthcoming new studio album, Stick Men are currently on a 5 week North American tour – The ‘Prog Noir’ Tour.  30th April saw the band arrive in Toronto for a show at the Mod Club.  Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

Stick Men (Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter) made a welcome return to Toronto and turned in an excellent performance to thrill the enthusiastic crowd. Playing tracks from the as yet unreleased album ‘Prog Noir’, older Stick Men material and covers by King Crimson (Tony and Pat are long term members of KC) and Mike Oldfield, the setlist was both varied and surprising.

Levin exclusively plays the Chapman Stick, Reuter plays his self-designed touch style guitar, and Mastelotto’s drumming encompasses not just the acoustic kit, but an electronic setup too, allowing him to add loops, samples, percussion, and more.

The highlights for me were ‘Level Five’, ‘Schattenhaft’ and the two longer improvs which highlighted the chemistry between the musicians on stage. I always like seeing bands at venues like The Mod Club, small 700 capacity all-standing where you can get close to the stage. The new material sounded strong, the album is out in September – why the delay? – in the meantime it’s worth picking up the double CD ‘Midori’ live in Japan 2015 (with David Cross also of King Crimson fame) at one of the shows on this tour.

Remaining ‘Prog Noir Tour’ dates:

MAY 1, SUN – Kitchener, ON, Canada (Dallas Night Club)
MAY 3, TUE – Auburn Hills, MI (Callahan’s Music Hall)
MAY 4, WED – Chicago, IL (Reggie’s)
MAY 5, THU – Chicago, IL (Reggie’s)
MAY 6, FRI – Milwaukee, WI (Shank Hall)
MAY 7, SAT – Dubuque, IA (The Venue)
MAY 8, SUN – Minneapolis, MN (Fine Music Cafe)
MAY 10, TUE – Moline, IL (Rascals)
MAY 11, WED – St. Louis, MO (The Old Rock House)
MAY 13, FRI – Louisville, KY (Headliner)
MAY 14, SAT – Columbus, OH  (Scarlet & Grey Cafe)
MAY 15, SUN – Cleveland, OH (Beachland Music Hall)

Stick Men setlist – The Mod Club Toronto, 30th April 2016

Hide the Trees
Schattenhaft
Cusp
Crack in the Sky
Time’s Insane Ashes
Mirage (Mike Oldfield cover)
Sepia
Plutonium
Horatio
Mantra
Soup
Sartori in Tangier (King Crimson cover)
Prog Noir
Level Five (King Crimson cover)
Encore:
Open, Pt. 3 – Truncheon