The Scene Young Galaxy ( pic­tured), Saul Wil­liams, Vulva Cul­ture, Ba­sia Bu­lat

Shows that rocked Toronto last week

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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

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