Rocking for the weekend

Charting the best and worst of Canadian Music Week 2009

Gentleman Reg (Horseshoe, Thursday, 11 p.m.)

He’s had a rough couple of years, but Gentleman Reg’s CMW appearance was a declaration that not only is his career back on track, he’s in better form than ever. While it’s true that the local folkie rocks out harder than ever before on his new album, Jet Black, fans of his romantic ballads needn’t worry, he hasn’t gone hardcore. Emerging with a silk scarf thrown around his neck (used as a towel once the house lights started beating down), Gentleman Reg ripped through a selection of glossy rockers including “You Can’t Get It Back” and “Coastline.” He did so with a little help from his friends: The Bicycles’ Dana Snell was a force on the drum kit, and Land of Talk singer Liz Powell rushed the stage for an impromptu backing vocal. The latest in a long line of rock ‘n’ roll comebacks, if things keep rolling for Gentleman Reg, at least we’ll be able to say we knew him when.
—ROB DUFFY

Rating: VVVv

Malajube (El Mocambo, Thursday, 1 a.m.)

Love the band, hate the fans—after all, it isn’t often that a performer needs to tell the audience to shut up. Unfortunately, Malajube’s legion of Quebeçois groupies thought it best to puncture the gaps between songs with soccer chants, and with lead singer Julien Mineau’s mic mysteriously turned off through the set’s first half, the audience didn’t quite know when to stop. Malajube played much of their new album, Labyrinthes, a decidedly more subdued and sombre effort than their earlier work. While lead track “Porté Disparu” was performed with a riveting spookiness, the rest of the new songs blended into a rhythmless mush. Even peppy old stanbys “Casse-Cou” and “La Monogamie” got lost in the shuffle of new tracks. The show’s one saving grace was an encore rendition Malajube’s biggest hit, “Montréal -40º.” But it wasn’t enough to remedy a show that left the audience largely bewildered and disappointed.

—SHOSHANA WASSER

Rating: VV

Katy Perry (Masonic Temple, Friday, 9:55 p.m.)

Two things distinguished Katy Perry from the rest of the CMW lineup—besides her obvious American citizenship, she provided one of the festival’s few shows that could truly be described as a guilty pleasure. Within the opening synth beats of “Hot N Cold,” Perry was masterfully working the stage, dancing in impressively high heels, and beaming contagiously at a capacity crowd of pop lovers and industry lowlives who packed the Masonic Temple. Her energy sagged noticeably when she broke out the acoustic guitar for her country-infused “Thinking of You,” and even worse was “Ur So Gay,” an absolutely painful Carly Simon-inspired sendoff to an ex-lover. Luckily, Perry was captivating with her upbeat numbers, particularly the show-closing “I Kissed A Girl.” Before waltzing offstage, Perry danced with a six-foot inflatable tube of cherry Chapstick, then smooched an unwitting female in the front row. (And yeah, the girl definitely liked it.) —SW

Rating: VVVv

Teen Anger (Friday, Gladstone Hotel, 10 p.m.)

With the collapse of The Deadly Snakes, Toronto’s Teen Anger want to revive garage rock the only way they know how—by kicking ass. While the band’s set at the Gladstone’s Eye Weekly showcase stalled due to a broken guitar string, leaving attendees awkwardly milling about, Teen Anger got back on board with smouldering tracks like “Carole Pope,” “Homecoming Queen,” and “Minimum Wage”—with the calling-all-graduates opening, “I make minimum wage, I’m always hoping for the best!” A slinky girl bass player complimented Teen Anger’s adolescent fury, a melding of Richard Hell and the dirge-like aggression of Anagram. A band worthy of breakout status, see them now, and brag to your friends later. —CHANDLER LEVACK

Rating: VVVV The Ghost Is Dancing

(Silver Dollar, Friday, 2 a.m.)

Everyone loves a love affair. The Ghost Is Dancing, yet another of Toronto’s seven-person-don’t-ya-love-hand-claps bands stole hearts with a late-night showcase at the grody Silver Dollar. With the forthcoming Battles On, new tracks like “This Thunder” and the orchestral-call-to-arms title track boasted a darker, synth-based sound than the band’s poppier fare. And yet, “Wall Of Snow” and “Organ” had fans jumping, as the band (predictably) shed winter layers down to their skivvies. While haters may call the Ghost on overdramatic trumpet lines and aw-shucks crowd demeanour, one thing’s for certain: it’s the most jubilant live show in town. Plus, Jamie Matechuk without a shirt on? Swoon. —CL

Rating: VVVV

Bloc Party (Kool Haus, Saturday, 10 p.m.)

London post-punk turned electro-rockers Bloc Party headlined the weekend with a two-night stand at the Kool Haus, and were greeted Saturday evening with a lone bra that hit the stage before they even picked up their instruments. It was immediately clear—we were in for a sweaty night. While classic rave-ups “Banquet” and “Like Eating Glass” were delivered with precision, Bloc Party were a different band once they broke out the electro material off 2008’s Intimacy. Singer Kele Okereke ditched his guitar in favour of a vocal effect pedal for “Mercury” and “Ares.” Despite a few strange decisions (leaving out current single “One Month Off,” not to mention my personal favourite, the ode to unrealized grade school romance “I Still Remember”), theirs was a party-starting performance that demanded a second encore. As he bid the Toronto crowd adieu with a moving rendition of “This Modern Love,” Okereke thanked Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy for a wonderful tour of the city, and promised to return with album number four. —RD

Rating: VVVV

Cuff the Duke (Lee’s Palace, Saturday, 12:45 a.m.)

Cuff the Duke were allocated one of the last time slots of CMW 2009, and they certainly ended the festival with a bang. Riding the success of their critically-acclaimed 2007 album Sidelines of the City, the band provided lengthy, wistful instrumentals on “Remember the Good Times” and “Long Road.” Most memorable, though, was when the band invited all of the night’s previous performers onstage with them for a rendition of “If I Live or If I Die.” Assorted members of Elliott Brood and Basia Bulat’s band harmonized with Cuff the Duke on violins, guitars, and vocals, as the Lee’s Palace stage was transformed into a funky East Coast kitchen party. (Good thing everyone knew the lyrics.) Cuff the Duke also previewed several encouraging tracks from their upcoming album, including the tentatively titled “Good Day” and “Promises.” If the rest of their new work turns out to be anything like their CMW concert, we definitely have some great music to look forward to. —SW

Rating: VVVVv

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