Monday, May 21, 2012

Frank Turner and Joel Plaskett make great tag team

Frank Turner and Joel Plaskett Emergency, perhaps the best double bill that will hit Toronto this year, should have left no-one disappointed after Friday and Saturday night's performances. Even my friends who had people puking in the row in front of them at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre had a great time.

Turner filled England's Wembley Arena last month and is a bona fide star in his homeland while he continues to build his following around the world. His Toronto fan base is definitely growing and is undeniably loyal.

Frank Turner
Turner bounded on stage at 8:10 p.m. on Friday, admitting he didn't know what time it was since he'd just arrived from Australia to complete the last two nights of a lengthy world tour. He was on his own with his acoustic guitar and no band, but he has more than enough charisma on his own to compensate.

The set began with "I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous" and continued with 12 more songs from the breadth of much of his catalogue. People were singing and clapping along to most of them, including "Long Live The Queen" -- which I'm convinced is one of the best songs of this century.

Turner should be back at home in England by now and will soon start working on his next album. He previewed two songs that could be on it on Friday. The first was just finished that day and was getting its debut performance. It's still untitled, but is a relatively gentle song with lots of lyrics. The second newbie was "Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons?," a bittersweet yet humorous number about the KISS bassist's long, catalogued and photographed list of sexual conquests.

There were too many people in the theatre lobby during Turner's set, but I'm sure that he must have made believers out of a good portion of the Plaskett fans who might not have been familiar with him before. The man may have the worst tattoos in rock and roll, but he wears them proudly. I look forward to his Toronto return.
 
Joel Plaskett Emergency opened Canadian Music Fest with an invite-only gig high up in Toronto's CN Tower in March, and I thought that it was the most rocking and animated performance I'd seen from the group out of the dozen or more I've taken in over the years. There were certainly elements of that present on Friday night, but this was a much longer and varied set that also included a solo acoustic interlude where drummer Dave Marsh and bassist Chris Pennell got to take a break.

Joel Plaskett Emergency
Fans rushed the stage early in the set and almost all of the 1,200 people in the theatre were on their feet throughout the 110-minute performance. The loyalty and familiarity was evident with all of the singing along that went on, from "Tough Love" at the beginning to "Come On, Teacher" at the end.

I think I've probably thought of Plaskett as a songwriter first and foremost, even though I've never left one of his shows without having a good time. But this past weekend's shows reinforced that he's also a great guitarist and -- at age 37 and with seven studio albums to his credit since 1999 after the demise of former band Thrush Hermit, which released its first EP 19 years ago -- has become a complete entertainer who can totally charm a large audience.

Marsh and Pennell have combined with Plaskett to make the Emergency more muscular than it's ever been, and having "monkeys on a switch pedal" and a fedora-wearing bust of Wayne Newton on amplifiers near the back of the stage didn't hurt the entertainment value either.

Monkeys on a switch pedal
Both Turner and Plaskett knew that a lot of people would come to both the Friday and Saturday shows and they think enough of their fans that they changed their set lists so that if there was a favourite song you didn't hear one night, there was a good chance you probably would have heard it on the other night.

I was chastised for paying too much attention to my note-taking and photography on Friday night and not enough to the young hotties who were dancing beside and in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that the days of women half my age being interested in me are gone. Still, I elected to leave my tools of the trade at home on Saturday just in case I had one more kick in the can left in me. And what happened? I spent the night standing beside a young woman who I made cry about six years ago when she interned for me at ChartAttack.com and thought I was too tough on her performance assessment. So, needless to say, I didn't score that night either.

Joel Plaskett
But I attended a post-show party at the home of promoter Jeff Cohen (who was basking in his self-described "Bill Graham moment") and his hostess with the mostest wife Tara (my computer's auto-correct just changed mostest to moistest, but I thought I should change it back to avoid any potential gossiping). Turner didn't make it back to the house, but Plaskett and his crew and a lot of other friends did for hours of food, drinks, fellowship and falling into swimming pools. I took a traveller for my walk home and thought about how special the two nights I'd just experienced were until I arrived at my place at 5 a.m.

Here are the set lists from Turner and Plaskett's May 18 performances at Toronto's Queen Elizabeth Theatre:

Frank Turner
"I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous"
"Try This at Home"
"Peggy Sang the Blues"
"Wessex Boy"
"I Am Disappeared"
"Substitute"
New and still untitled song
"Long Live the Queen"
"If Ever I Stray"
"Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons"
"English Curse"
"I Still Believe"
"The Road"
"Photosynthesis"


Joel Plaskett
Joel Plaskett Emergency
"Tough Love"
"Waiting to be Discovered"
"Deny, Deny, Deny"
"You're Mine"
"Heartless, Heartless, Heartless"
"North Star"
"You Let Me Down"
"Harbour Boys"
"Beyond, Beyond, Beyond"
"Love This Town"
"Face of the Earth"
"Nowhere With You"
"Lightning Bolt"
"Work Out Fine" with interlude medley featuring Lee Dorsey's "Rain Rain (Go Away)," April Wine's "Oowatanite," The Rivieras' "California Sun," Manfred Mann's "Doo Wah Diddy," Sam Cooke's "Cupid" and Eagles' "New York Minute"
"Through and Through and Through"
"Maybe We Should Just Go Home" with interlude medley featuring Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?"
"Extraordinary"
"I'm Yours"
"Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'"
"Come On, Teacher"

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magical nights all around....sharing them with friends even better...xo

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