The Scene Young Galaxy ( pictured), Saul Williams, Vulva Culture, Basia Bulat
Shows that rocked Toronto last week
SAUL WILLIAMS with LIDO PIMIENTA at Tattoo , Thursday, February 18. Rating : NNNN It’s rare that a local opening act can command an audience’s attention as well as Lido Pimienta did warming up for Saul Williams.
The recent NOW cover star carries herself with the casual confidence of someone who knows how powerful her voice is, and her percussion- heavy electronic pop easily won over the crowd. She can leap from angry to sensual and bounce from political to silly, sometimes all in the same song.
Compared to Pimienta’s table of electronic gear and percussionist partner, Williams took a decidedly minimal approach to performing material from his new album, MartyrLoserKing. He simply plugged his laptop in, hit play on instrumental versions of his new songs and then wandered off the stage and into the crowd to perform.
Williams’s experiences as a spoken word artist and an actor might be why he was able to do so much with just his presence and a mic. He turned in a fairly short set, but it was undeniably powerful. BENJAMIN BOLES VULVA CULTURE
at the Silver Dollar, Friday, February 19. Rating : NNNN Vulva Culture don’t sound like they’re from Halifax, which they are.
That isn’t a slight against Halifax ( where I’m from, FWIW). And of course there is no single Halifax sound, though a lo- fi, upbeat-but- inwardturned sensibility runs through much of its indie rock output.
Vulva Culture are introspective, but their sound isn’t distinctly of any city, which could explain why it’s resonating beyond the borders of Nova Scotia. There are some shoegaze elements, and rainy- day gloom comes via Amy Vinnedge’s vocals, intoned in equally sensual and mournful ways. It’s almost sigh- singing, an exhalation of all that depresses her.
Songs are achingly slow, but they never dragged at the band’s Silver Dollar appearance in support of new EP In Vain, thanks to the animated rhythm section of bass player Hannah Guinan and drummer Bianca Palmer. While Vinnedge’s rhythm guitar swirls and cascades with help from a loaded pedal board, guitarist Kayla Stevens’s sharp, talkative melodies are like little alarm bells that prevent songs from falling fully into dreamscape territory.
Vinnedge didn’t interact much with the crowd but gave everything in her confessional, yearning lyrics. Palmer, meanwhile, threw her whole body into her playful cymbal crashes and tom fills. Vulva Culture also know that often you only need three minutes to say what you need to say. CARLA GILLIS BASIA BULAT
at the Mod Club, Friday, February 19. Rating : NNNN The first thing that jumps out about the cover of Basia Bulat’s Good Advice album is the richness of the colour palette. The Toronto- born singer/ songwriter communicated that radiance in her 90- minute show – and not just because she sported a gold- sequined cape and glowing blond bob.
The brightness came through in her synth- accented pop- rock tunes and the foot- stomping energy of her fourpiece band and two backup singers. From opener Fool – with its breezy country melody – it was clear Bulat is at the top of her game. She sang with relaxed conviction, projecting her dusky voice over the big, propulsive rhythms. Only when she paused to intro the “slow jam” Time could you tell she was a bit winded.
She frequently swapped out instruments, singing Let Me In with one hand on the keys and the other gripping a mic, and alternated between autoharp, synthesizer, acoustic guitar and ukulele during a solo segment of folky ballads. The band returned and gradually eased the energy level back up with the title track and songs from 2014’ s darker Tall Tall Shadow album.
“I can’t believe I got away with making a fourth record,” she told the sold- out crowd. Four albums in, Bulat has the improvisational chops and a diverse enough repertoire to keep a show interesting. KEVIN RITCHIE