Reviews Concerts CMW 2010: Wednesday's "Bonfire Ball" Excites and Exhausts Audience

CMW 2010: Wednesday's "Bonfire Ball" Excites and Exhausts Audience

Jason Collett
Bonfire Ball feat. Jason Collett, Zeus, and Bahamas
Lee's Palace in Toronto, Ontario
March 10, 2010

Review by: Jen Polk

Jason Collett lead an impressive display of musicianship last Wednesday night, the first day of Canadian Music Fest. Joining forces with Zeus — his regular backing band — and friend Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas), the resultant 3-hour, 44-song music marathon was thrilling, and left me utterly spent. 

Bahamas

This was unlike other three-band-bill shows I've been to. All the acts performed together, backing each other up, adding layers of instrumentation and vocals to erstwhile sparser arrangements, and keeping things moving. The combined musical power of the men on stage was clearest during the performances of Bahamas' songs. Although his 2009 record includes guest musicians to flesh things out, Jurvanen's live performances are usually done with only a drummer along for support. Over the course of the night, we got nine Bahamas' songs, including some of my favourites such as "Hockey Teeth," "Already Yours," "What's Worse," and a bunch of newer ones, some of which I'd heard and liked before. Although I'm a huge Bahamas' fan, enjoying him solo and a duo in the past, and being a regular listener to Pink Strat, it was exciting to hear his songs sound bigger. At some points there were four guitars on the go! And sweet backing vocals courtesy Jason C. and the Zeus men.

Bahamas is opening for the Weakerthans on 26 May at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

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Video: What's Worse

Zeus

Gracing the cover of that week's NOW Magazine's CMW preview issue, and one of the hottest bands in town these days, is Zeus. These guys got the biggest workout of the night, and especially drummer Rob Drake who played during all but one song. They got to play about a dozen of their own tunes, much to the delight of audience members, who cheered and applauded loudly before and after each outing. Making an appearance were cuts from both their recent album, Say Us, and last year's EP, Sounds Like Zeus. Throughout the course of the night we got "I Know," "Kindergarten," "Fever of the Time," "Greater Times On The Wayside," "The River By The Garden," "Marching Through Your Head," "Cornerstones," "How Does It Feel," "At The Risk Of Repeating," "Heavy On Me," and "You Gotta Tell'er," in that order. 

The sound in Lee's Palace is generally fairly good, and though I have few complaints about Wednesday night, something was off with the keyboard and the attached microphone. The organ was usually much too high in the mix, and whoever sang while seated at the keys was much too quiet. It's a shame, and did take away some of the effect of the music. Zeus is a great band, and one hopes to be able to hear them properly. 

Jason Collett

The lineup to get into Lee's Palace was crazy-long even at 8:30pm, only thirty minutes after doors opened. I managed my way in by joining the small Arts & Crafts guestlist lineup, thinking it was the media pass lineup. (I only later realized that if I'd just gone and lined up like everyone else, I may well not have made it in that night.) After an hour of eager anticipation and admittedly some impatience, Jason Collett turned on a couple lightbulbs hanging in home-made shades above the stage, and began to sing. Over half of the setlist was made up of Collett songs, and they fit in well with the offerings by Zeus and Bahamas. Collett's voice isn't the easiest for me to get behind, but seeing and hearing him live, I very nearly instantly understood the appeal. The man is a real troubadour with great stage presence, and though he's got a good ten years on me, he is impossibly attractive. Combine his sexiness with Jurvanen's burly swagger and the rock attitude of some of the Zeus men, and it all made for a stage very full of testosterone. In a good way, even if it came close to being a mite overwhelming at times.

Collett's set included songs from all of his five solo albums. This year's Rat A Tat Tat was highlighted ("High Summer," "Winnipeg Winds," "Long May You Love"), but with two dozen spots to fill, 2008's Here's To Being Here ("Charlyn, Angel of Kensington," "Out of Time") and 2005's Idols of Exile ("Brownie Hawkeye," "I'll Bring the Sun," "We All Lose One Another") were well represented, too. "Blue Sky," from Motor Motel Love Songs (2002) featured a lovely a cappella ending. All around me people sang along to many familiar tunes. The show ended with a joyous "I'll Bring the Sun."

At this point, though we were tired, and though the show hadn't been flawless, an encore was a given. After a couple minutes of insistent clapping, chanting, and generalized hootin' and hollerin', the men came back. Bahamas contributed one of his soulful, classic-rock tunes, and Collett performed one last song. But between them, and coming as a complete, awesome surprise to me and those around me, was a spirited cover of Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head." Wow.

The Bonfire Ball tour is hitting up stages across Canada and the US over the next while. All three groups will be back at it during the Toronto Island show on 19 June.