Forest City Lovers
Gentleman Reg, Carmen Elle
The Great Hall, Toronto
Thursday August 12th 2010
Review by: Katie Christensen
Photos by: Pete Nema
Forest City Lovers, Gentleman Reg, and Carmen Elle a talented bunch of Toronto natives took to the Great Hall in Toronto. Audience members were overwhemled by an evening characterized by addictive melodies, soft vocals, sometimes-gritty rock sounding musical arrangements and raw talent, but most impressively, a collection of artists right from our backyard.
With address in hand I looked up and down Queen Street for the Great Hall. GPS activated and a phone call later I was entering the greatly surreptitious hall. Walking up the velvety stairs the music of songstress Carmen Elle was well underway. I slipped right into the mellow aura of the audience and was quickly entranced by Carmen’s smoky voice filling up the hall. If you haven’t had the chance to see her live, think Elizabeth Powell from Land of Talk; soft vocals teamed with bittersweet melodies and stabbing chords. Carmen, a Toronto native, is also a member of Donlands and Mortimer, but tonight took to the stage only backed by a drummer. Being restricted to only a beat and a guitar (sea-foam green at that) did not hinder her performance, but rather allowed her sultry voice to shine even despite her sore pipes. Her musical talent is apparent at her young age, and although she is on a slight hiatus, I hope she returns fully recovered as we can all expect great things to come.
Next to take the stage was Gentleman Reg, who has been a regular fixture in the Canadian music scene since the turn of the millennium. Tonight Reg Vermue, the band’s front man, is dressed in cut off’s and pointy leather boots making him even more striking than his cherub locks and delicate voice. He played songs off their recent album Heavy Head and its predecessor Jet Black. The latter was the bands debut album, with notable record label Arts & Crafts. Reg’s airy voice was accentuated perfectly by his female cohort creating wonderful harmonies, provided by drummer Dana Snell and keyboardist Kelly McMichael. Although I was crossing my fingers to hear Reg’s version of my guilty pleasure, Chris Issak’s - "Wicked Game" (always gets me), I was instead treated to their cover of Sheryl Crow - "If it Makes you Happy". Reg and Kelly turned the Canadian classic into a phenomenal duet showcasing Kelly’s beautiful voice, which was a dead ringer for Crow’s itself.
Forest City Lovers
At slightly past 11 the chatting crowd turned silent as the eerie hum of violins indicated that The Forest City Lovers were about to begin. They opened their set with "Phodilus & Tylo", the first track off their sophomore album Carriage, released late last month. The song has an uneasy feel, a cold graveyard-esque quality to it that is never more palpable than when Kat Burn chants somberly, "The nighttime is wasted on the owls and the blood shot eyes on the prowl; humid air sticky skin, doesn't let much else in". Everyone in the hall understands the feeling of humid air and sticky skin a little too well. Moments later the band has all joined in, transforming the once mellow song into a cheerful tune causing us to sway, and dare I say, dance. They continued to showcase gems off their new album like "Tell Me Cancer", "Light You Up", and marching band inspired, "Keep the Kids Inside". Since their album only came out days ago, we are all very privileged to hear the mature and evolved songs of Carriage live.
FCL, consisting of Kat, Mika, Kyle and Christian (all in coordinated black and gold outfits) were once coined as a band to watch in 2008 by Eye Weekly. The turnout tonight and the critical acclaim received clearly indicates that people are in fact watching, or listening I should say. The local musicians are humble, heartfelt and truly gracious for the support from their fans, friends and family. Kat dedicated the hauntingly sweet single "Oh The Wolves!" to her present sister, singing lyrics that could only ring true for family, "You know that I'm not going anywhere 'cause our blood is thicker than the water." FCL has the ability to make you feel like you're listening to private stories, diary entries, and family histories all wrapped in heartfelt ballads.