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my previous gig review and my own week in general: I just found it interesting to be immersed at one concert and then withdrawn at the next, but every gig is different and that is half the fun of this vice.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have no worse all year, and while I attended this concert in the best frame of mind I could muster, I soon found myself withdrawn and frustrated by what was a lackustre show.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