Live music galleries: Virgin Festival Toronto [2008]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words* but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Early crowds at V Fest day two

Artists: The Weakerthans, Stereophonics, Paul Weller, and Oasis
When: September 7th, 2008 (day two)
Where: Main Stage, Virgin Festival, Toronto Island, Toronto
Context: In the introductory post to my Best albums of 2008 list that I am in the midst of counting down, I made mention of the fact that Toronto’s Virgin Fest of that year was the first time I ever attended a multi-day music festival. It was the third year being held on Toronto’s Island over a two-day weekend in early September, the same weekend as Montreal’s Osheaga so as to share bands amongst them. (Incidentally, the following year, where it was moved off the island to a location north of Toronto and Osheaga moved its festivities to the first weekend in August, was Virgin Fest’s final year in Canada.)

I attended both days with my friend Mark and his friend Denise and Victoria joined us for the second day. The photos here are all from the second day because Victoria had the foresight to document the fun for future reference. I didn’t think of it myself and so you’re missing shots of Airborne Toxic Event, Spiritualized, The Fratellis, Bloc Party, and multiple trips to the Baccardi bar for mojitos on day one. The lineup on the main stage for day two was good enough for us to plant roots there for the entire day and we caught The Weakerthans and Stereophonics from a comfy place on a picnic blanket. We had to pull it up around the time the crowd moved in for Paul Weller, at whom Victoria was surprised was so old.

Oasis was the headlining act that night, which was the sole reason I was able to convince Victoria to join us, and there were rumours going around that Paul Weller was going to come back onstage to perform a song or two with them. However, it was not to be because some idiot 40-something climbed up onstage during Oasis’s set and pushed Noel Gallagher from behind on to the stacks of monitors. I can’t say I saw it because Victoria and I were on our way back from a prime but very squashed spot near the front of the stage to a spot further back with more breathing room when the music abruptly stopped. There was confusion as to what actually happened amongst the people we asked around us and I only got the full picture the next day on YouTube.

The band eventually returned to the stage to finish what was likely a shortened set with Noel Gallagher being a trooper (with what he later learned was a few busted ribs) performing a couple songs solo and acoustic. It was a slight taint on what was an otherwise fantastic weekend and only whet my appetite for more outdoor music festivals.

Point of reference song: The shock of the lightning” by Oasis

Walking bushes at V Fest
A very tall lady at V Fest
The Weakerthans at V Fest
The Stereophonics at V Fest
More Stereophonics at V Fest
Crowds at dusk at V Fest
Paul Weller and his band at V Fest
Paul Weller at V Fest
Noel Gallagher of Oasis at V Fest
Liam Gallagher of Oasis striking a pose
Oasis at V Fest

*I will allow that many of these posts are getting wordier the more of them I post and this particular post is practically a novel…

100 best covers: #95 Aurora “Half the world away”

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I was driving home from work last night, listening to the CD that was in the car’s player, which happened to be a mix I had made at the behest of my lovely wife. And I was thinking of Victoria because she is away in Toronto right now and I was returning home to an empty house. And I definitely smiled when this particular song came over the speakers at about the midway point in my trajectory, not because Toronto is even close to ‘half a world away’, but because I knew, even when making the mix, that despite this cover’s beauty, Victoria would never be a fan.

I’ve mentioned already in previous posts in this series that Victoria is not fond of covers and that, in her humble opinion, there’s definitely bands whose songs should never be touched. Oasis would likely fit nicely into this category. They are among the first bands that I introduced her to back in university and to whom she really took. Victoria could easily listen to anything by them in the era during which their first two albums were recorded and that even includes the B-sides, such as this track: “Half a world away”. Originally included on the “Whatever” single in 1994, Oasis’s version features Noel on vocals, acoustic guitars, and drums (!) with Paul Arthurs backing him on keys. It became pretty popular in the UK due to it being used as theme song to a sitcom there, called “The royle family”, in the late 90s.

However, if you google the words “Half the world away” today, chances are that Aurora’s cover is the first listing you will see. I came across this cover last year when I was first listening to the young Norwegian singer-songwriter’s debut album, “All my demons greeting me as a friend”, and I noticed it among the bonus tracks included on the deluxe edition. The album as a whole is fantastic. I pretty much latched on to her dark and haunting sound right away, likening it to the more Kate Bush-sounding Florence and the Machine songs. Her take on “Half the world away” is simple, yet lovely, her ringing voice skipping along a layered bed of pianos and strings. It’s even more wistful sounding and emotional than Noel’s tough-guy-with-a-tear rendition.

I love both versions pretty much equally, but in the absence of the original on the mixed CD, I was quite content to replay Aurora’s cover for the rest of the drive home. And smiling, of course.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Best tunes of 2000: #13 Oasis “Go let it out”

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When you get as big as fast Oasis did, there’s bound to be a modicum of backlash, especially from the tastemaker set. We saw a similar phenomenon with Coldplay and more recently, with Mumford and Sons but in the case of Oasis, they didn’t really do themselves any favours. The Gallagher brothers’ constant squabbling was much publicized in the music press, as were their outspokenness and snarky potshots at other bands. It’s like they couldn’t keep their mouths shut and it only got worse as their egos grew. This attitude also found its way into the studio with them. You only have to listen to the all the bombast and navel-gazing on “Be here now” for a point of reference.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Oasis. Noel Gallagher is as great a songwriter as he is at repurposing hooks and melodies and Liam’s looks and attitude (when held in check) made him an all-star frontman. Their first two albums were brilliant rock and roll records but when it came to the third, I thought it all just way too much. Then, when “Standing on the shoulders of giants” was released in 2000, I didn’t even bother. I mean, just think about what that title means. I only finally listened to their fourth album in full close to a decade after it was released, just after the Gallagher brothers and the new look Oasis lured me back into the fold with albums five (“Heathen chemistry”) and six (“Don’t believe the truth”).

That doesn’t mean I never once heard “Go let it out” in the intervening months and years. How could I not? It was all over the radio, at the least it was on the only radio station I could stomach at the time: Toronto’s EDGE 102.1. My initial response was ambivalence. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it enough to make me want to check out the album. It has turned out to be a grower though and nowadays, it ranks up there with some of my favourite Oasis singles. It’s got that cracking drum sample that loops through the entire tune and due to the departure of both Bonehead and Guigsy, Noel does double duty here, providing both the muscular rhythm guitar and the fuzzy bass. Liam, meanwhile, is very present and provides his usual edge, a raw and raspy performance.

“Go let it out” is as stadium-friendly and anthemic as their other work during this period, yet it also feels somewhat restrained, at least as restrained as these guys could ever get (it’s almost two minutes shorter than the average song on “Be here now”). And yes, it has that raise your fist and pump it in the air kind of climax. Pure Oasis.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.