Forest City Lovers at The Great Hall, Toronto – Gig review and concert photos

August 14, 2010
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Forest City Lovers at The Great Hall, Toronto, 12 August 2010 - photo by Brian Banks, Music Vice

The Gig: Forest City Lovers w/ Gentleman Reg
Where: Great Hall, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: 12 August 2010
In One Word: Disappointing

n.b. The following review has received a fair amount of blowback (via email, comments and even Twitter) in the past 24 hours from people who perceived my review to be “angry”, or on simpler terms, just thought I was being an ass. Had I actually intended to slam the band then I wouldn’t have cared less about these comments, but in this instance that was far from being the case. Any criticism was supposed to be as constructive as I could make it, and at the very least objective. True, I didn’t think it was a great gig (it wasn’t bad either, but an average one – and I’ve seen FCL play better), but I also mentioned that the majority of the crowd did enjoy the show. And the frustration I’m talking about in this review is because I do rate FCL but while their recent album is good, I personally don’t consider it to be great. Plenty of other people rate Carriage much higher, including at least a couple of Music Vice writers, but we all have our own opinions, expectations and perceptions. I only mentioned the ‘bad day’ aspect in the introduction as a continuation of a ‘comfort in sound’ style theme from my previous gig review and my own week in general: I just found it interesting to be immersed at one concert and then withdrawn at the next, but every gig is different and that is half the fun of this vice. All the best to the band, and thanks for reading. – Brian, Editor, Tuesday 17 Aug. 12.40am

More often than not, music can provide a musical band-aid to help appease the ails that life can serve you up, but on this occasion the gig did not provide a big enough bandage to cover the metaphorical scraped-knee inflicted by a real bad day. Thursday 12 August 2010 was a real stinker, hopefully I’ll have no worse all year, and while I attended this concert in the best frame of mind I could muster, I soon found myself withdrawn and frustrated by what was a lackustre show.

I found nothing tangible or interesting about the set of main support act Gentleman Reg, though the rest of the small crowd of 90 or so people inside the Great Hall seemed to find his performance and music agreeable enough. By the end of his set, Reg Vermue and his band had enthused some of the girls in the crowd to shake their thang on the dance floor, with the indie rock thing vibe going sort-of disco for a moment – always a danger when there’s a keyboard on stage. While the lads shuffled and the lasses jived, I retreated upstairs to the isolated refuge of the seated upper tier of the Great Hall where I would remain for rest of the night.

Forest City Lovers have been one of a few locals Toronto bands who I’ve short-listed and kept tabs on with the approbation of them having great potential. (Heck, I even once ventured to Oshawa to see them.) I scarcely use the word ‘potential’ when talking about music, because really it can come across as patronising as hell, especially when a band are already a bit more than just decent. But I did have a lot of hope for this band, but the blunt truth is that I found their recently released second album Carriage to be a let down. Carriage is not a bad album, it’s just didn’t meet my own hopes and expectations, and that’s the crux as a music fan – sometimes the band don’t make the music that you want to hear. Carriage offers a motley of sounds and ideas, but with a lack of direction; too many wrong turns or cul-de-sacs. Unfortunately, my recent disappointment with Forest City Lovers remained after seeing them live tonight.

As for Gentleman Reg’s set, the crowd seemed to find Forest City Lovers agreeable but the applause and encouragement largely seemed to be polite and token. As I stood watching down from the shadows of the balcony, I found the music lacking any real bite. My interest peaked for a few moments nearer the end of the set, with some songs which seemed a bit more strident thanks to some nice work by the violinists, who do add an extra bit some heaviness to the music, but later I felt the same element was a guilty party when the penultimate song of their set ended in a loud and cacophonous noise.

Forest City Lovers music can be warm and twee, even if in a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing kind of way, but sometimes it’s just all too pleasant into the bargain. For me, the one big highlight of the aforementioned Carriage is the track “Tell Me, Cancer”, which contains the inspired lyric; “Go tell your mother that you passed the test, befriended the good ones and fucked all the rest”, but when this song was played Kat Burns appeared to make the lyrics more family-friendly by replacing the swear word with ‘EFF’. My conclusion on Forest City Lovers is that I feel the band are playing it too safe.

© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice

Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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8 Responses to Forest City Lovers at The Great Hall, Toronto – Gig review and concert photos

  1. Natascha Malta on August 16, 2010 at 3:30 am

    It sucks that you had a crappy day that ended with a crappy show. I really wanted to see Forest City Lovers and am a fan of Reg. It’s too bad they disappointed.

  2. Kat on August 16, 2010 at 11:59 am

    My friend pointed this article out to me and so I wanted to say – just for the record – I did indeed say “fuck” during Tell Me Cancer, not “eff”, the only time you’ll hear me change it is if there are kids in the room I will sing “left”. Thanks for reviewing the show, I’m sorry you were disappointed.

  3. chris on August 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    lol. well that “fuck”/”eff” mix-up pours some cold water over your argument about the band being too safe. check yer hearing!

    I liked this tho — “Carriage is not a bad album, it’s just didn’t meet my own hopes and expectations, and that’s the crux as a music fan – sometimes the band don’t make the music that you want to hear.” — that’s true enough and we all have these kind of individual let downs with bands albums/shows but its also pretty impossible to meet the expectations of evry1.

  4. sam on August 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    i’m a longtime fan of Forest City Lovers and I have to completely disagree with this review cos i don’t think they’re playing it safe at ALL. especially with their latest release. It is a bold step in a new (but not crazy) direction and as a fan who knows where they are coming from, i think its great.

    i feel like you had a bad day and just felt like being an ass in this review. even your photos are meant to make the room look empty and dreary when in fact it was full (a lot left during encore because it was after 1am on a weeknight) but there were over 300 people there during most of the night as i overheard the security say many times.

    you really need to learn how to separate your own feelings of hurt that a band isn’t catering to your needs. they can’t satisfy everyone but that night they satisfied me, the show was amazing.

    (typos due to strange internet cafe keyboard)

  5. Brian Banks on August 17, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Kat, thank you for commenting and out that mistake. And no need to worry about me being disappointed – there were a good few others at the show who were enthused by your performance, and they haven’t been shy in letting me know as much!

    And to anyone who contacted me regarding this review, I have made an amendment above. I didn’t consider this a bad review myself and I was surprised by some of the feedback – if I don’t like a gig or a band then it should be obvious in my reviews, as I don’t mince my words.

  6. Brian Banks on August 17, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Oh, and Natascha, wicked – you can do the write-up next time we cover FCL on MV. 🙂

  7. Ren on August 17, 2010 at 10:13 am

    @Sam,being a “longtime fan” of FCL, perhaps you too are not being all that objective here.

    I came to the gig w/ an open mind, having only heard of Gentleman Reg. Now I’m not a fan of Reg, but I thought his performance showed more personality than FCL’s set, which was tame and lacklustre. Given the number of people around me who were shouting over the band in conversation, I don’t think I’m alone here. And there is no way there were 300 people there. Maybe that was the expected number, but in terms of actual bodies in the room, I find 300 to be an excessive estimate (And I didn’t see a mass exodus before the encore either, so that rationale about when the photo was taken doesn’t wash).

    I found the review to be quite fair. To be honest, had I written the review, it would have been harsh. But if anything, Brian’s review has prompted me to keep an open mind about the band. It was constructive, not destructive – an objective person would have noticed that.

  8. steve on August 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Review was accurate. It wasn’t a great show. I blame the sound. The Great Hall has TERRIBLE acoustics – I could barely make out any songs at all and left early. Add to that the heat, and the gymnasium-like feel of the room, I was left disappointed.

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