Saturday, October 31, 2009

Review: Julie Doiron, Herman Dune @ Lee's Palace.

Julie Doiron is one of the country's musical national treasures. Her unassuming demeanor, loveable cuteness, gorgeous voice, and ability to really rock out when called for are standouts of her live shows. Even more so is the fact that she makes each one feel unique in ways other performers are unable to match. Last Tuesday night's Toronto concert at Lee's Palace was no different. It was, to my mind, also one of the concerts of the year.

The show opened with Doiron's friend, Shotgun Jimmie, but his 8:30pm slot was under-advertised, and I missed it entirely. Next up, one-time Doiron collaborators Herman Dune, a Paris-based two-piece. (They were Julie's backing band for 2004's Goodnight Nobody.) Self-introduced as David Herman Dune (vocals and guitar) and Neman Herman Dune (drums), the band performed 11 songs; practically a headlining set. David's songs and singing style remind me of Jens Lekman. They are personal and a little chatty, kinda folky---or, "anti-folk," as they call themselves---but mostly popy. So, tailor made for me to fall in love with them (and I did when I saw them at Lee's back in March). It was a strong set, helped by Julie joining in singing duties for the last couple songs. I was impressed with the band's ability to really rock out given their instrumental limitations. The extended versions of the songs they performed were great, and really got the crowd revved up for the main event. In fact, the post-performance cheering was unlike anything I've heard before for a mid-show band: long and loud with many shouts of "encore!" It was not to be.

Happy that my earlier comments to show-going friends that "Herman Dune is great, you'll like them" had proven true, I was hoping for great things from Julie. And that's what I got. She was backed that night---and that night only, so she said---by the Baird brothers: Jesse on drums and Jay on bass. Other guests included Constantines' Will Kidman and Shotgum Jimmie on electric guitar. Quite the impressive lineup. A friend standing behind me was giddy with excitement; this was more than she could have hoped for. The only thing missing (for me) was Julie's musical partner Fred Squire, but she performed two of his songs, including the brilliant "Spill Yer Lungs."

Julie, Will, and the Baird Brothers performed 10 songs for us, rocking them up good. We got a string of hits, including new ones off her most recent record, I Can Wonder What You Did with Your Day. My favourite off the new record, "Tailor," made it in there. Then the men left the stage, and Julie sang and strummed 6 more. She took audience requests, performing rather more, I think, than perhaps she'd planned. She asked at one point whether she could play a new one for us, seeming apologetic for wanting to do so. Oh Julie, you're so cute. And then Jesse---who's gotta have the best drum face in the business---and Jay came back on-stage. "Jimmers" was invited up too, for an impromptu figure-it-out-as-we-go-along jam session to perform 4 more songs. On a couple occasions Jesse knocked both drum mics off their stands, he was hitting the symbols so forcefully. The whole thing was really something else. I was counting songs, the good reviewer that I am, and so was aware that we were getting rather more than normal. Julie's tunes run shorter than most, but still. The show ran the gamut from soft and sweet (and nearly heart-breaking) to hard-rocking awesomeness. As I left the venue, I overheard one bouncer comment to another, "An hour 45 [minutes]---fans got their money's worth." Indeed. Wow.

Download: Julie Doiron, "When Brakes Get Wet" (I Can Wonder What You Did with Your Day, 2009).
Download: Julie Doiron, "Consolation Prize" (I Can Wonder What You Did with Your Day, 2009).

Photo credit: Adam M. Anklewicz. Thanks Adam!


Bobby B said...

Great review. Wish I was there. Julie's amazing!

historyjen said...

Thanks! It was so so so so good.