Just so you know: I’m not maintaining radio silence just to be a tease but rather because I am going to have a lot of things to say about this concert, this Grand Finale to the Love & Lust Acoustic Tour III, and I do mean a lot. I will be adding my thoughts and feelings as I finish processing them in my mind over the day but in short: most intense performance I have ever seen from Lukas Rossi, not just in one song or a couple of them, but in every single one. He just poured himself into the mic and the room and our hearts and souls with abandon. Incredible for lack of a better adjective!
First of all, let me begin by saying that my attendance at last night’s concert is due to a convergence of circumstances and people to whom I shall always owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. I had planned on being at several of these latest instalments of Love & Lust III, but unforeseen events, which I will not go into, prevented me from attending until last night. I consider myself extremely fortunate and privileged to have witnessed what Lukas emphatically announced at the very outset of this concert as being ‘the last of the Acoustic Chronicles for a very, very long time’. It was a frigid evening in Ottawa but it was anything but cold in this venue.
I must confess that I went into this concert with a certain amount of trepidation because I just knew that this performance, by its very finality, was bound to be intense and I could sense deep inside me that Lukas was going to pick at the scab of our vulnerability and re-expose the wounds. Little did I expect what in fact transpired. Gone was Angry Memories Of You and its admittedly searing delivery that needs to be heard but also seen – for it is as much about physical performance as it is vocal and lyrical prowess – and, in its stead, was a transmogrification of many songs, several of which I had never heard (or seen) performed live. The rabid intensity of Angry Memories Of You, that unbearable lion’s roar of unbridled pain that shrieks out of Lukas‘ soul in waves of release, was exploded into many wounded animals curled up, defenseless, against the unforgiving wall and pervaded several songs (I counted 5). I had read from previous posts about how original Lukas‘ reinterpretation of Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again was, how he had transformed it from a happy-go-lucky pop standard (despite its obviously not so joyous lyrics) into a dark, brooding piece but I was not expecting The Shriek in this song. I nearly scared me. The Soul Scream resurfaced in a vastly different Headspin, in Lonely Ones, and, in my view, the crowning jewels of last night’s performance, War and Take 2, which were bordering on unbearable. During those last two songs, I was traversed by a shudder from the beyond and many in attendance were reduced to tears and visibly overcome with emotion, in particular his wife and manager Kendra, who pressed her lips into the tent formed by her shaking fingers. Such was the ferocity of the delivery.
How to put musical genius into words that do justice to the masterpiece we witnessed unfold in Ottawa? That is the question I am grappling with on the morning after. Lukas reached pinnacles, and accomplished feats, of sound last night that I did not think possible. He played his voice like an instrument, wielded it like a weapon over which he had absolute control, rising and soaring into glorious, angelic bliss only to then descend into the gritty bowels of the growl or extra raspy, gravelly sounds. A maestro painting ad lib or deliberately – who knows? – on the blank canvas of our souls.
For instance, in Here Comes The Rain Again, there is this long, plaintive wail reminiscent of Muslim incantations that carried us to exotic shores and this is echoed later in similar sounds that he weaves out of his guitar in the intro to Dead Flower.
And there were these tremolos and falsettos and notes held for an inordinate amount of time that just sent shivers and tingles down the spine, knifing into your core, as if the physical manifestation of the voice were actually touching you, as it sometimes shatters glass.
Lukas Rossi was truly hypnotic last night. I looked up three times from my own concentrated stare during the whole hour and half concert and noticed just how transfixed and entranced the entire audience was, just putty in his hands. Lukas sees everything as he delivers these outerworldly sounds, sometimes with the cold, detached and serene gaze of mastery, and other times with eyes blazing like heat-seeking missiles piercing disturbingly straight into your soul. I sometimes wonder if he thinks I’m not paying attention because, I confess, I have to jot a few notes into my cellphone to capture these insanely intense moments before they’re gone and are overwhelmed by the next wave that comes crashing down on you. I’m a big believer in mnemotechnics, or the art of summarizing very complex ideas into few words that jog your memory. That’s my little secret, as to how I ‘remember’ or relive these performances. It is the only way I have ever known of encapsulating events such as these as they unfold. It is not so much a desire, but a need, to record these feelings and thoughts. But, sometimes, I wonder if Lukas thinks I’m being disrespectful or rude by turning my eyes away, if only for a few seconds, to record my personal snippet of memory.
Lukas was so ON last night that, during the encore performance of Comfortably Numb with the opening band Channel One, I caught their lead singer looking ever so briefly over at Lukas sitting beside him with an expression of total awe. He seemed actually intimidated by the sheer power of Lukas’ voice and the places he took it on the rollercoaster ride of sound, the crests and troughs of the musically sublime.
When I initially read that the venue was called The Observatory and was on the campus of Algonquin College, I (erroneously) assumed we’d be treated to a Lukas show in a school auditorium of some sort. Far from it. The venue last night was a cause for concern when I first saw it. Part pool hall, part sports bar, part college cafeteria, with one section off to the side with couches and loveseats around a fireplace, strange to say the least, and certainly not inspiring as to the quality of the sound that would be possible to achieve. But, when we were all asked to step back outside into the hallway for half an hour so Lukas could do his soundcheck, he laid that all to rest. Even through the thick plexiglass of the front of the Observatory, we could tell Lukas would tame the acoustics of that place. And did he ever! In short: most intense performance I have ever seen from Lukas, not just in one song or a couple of them, but in every single one. He just poured himself into the mic and the room and our hearts and souls with reckless abandon, like there was no tomorrow, like there was no yesterday, like there was only the here and now. And, yet, the performance seemed strangely transcendental, as opposed to frozen in time. Lukas, musically and lyrically, just reached a plane of existence where everyone was enthralled, living in the moment physically, but realizing at the same time that they were experiencing something metaphysically that was timeless and would inhabit them for all time. That, my friends, is a true gift.
Now, a few words about the songs and the lyrics that so captivated us last night. fransi@FringeMusic posted the setlist earlier. But, it bears repeating for the purposes of my observations below. Lukas played, in order, the following songs:
Here Comes The Rain Again (Eurythmics)
Sunrise Of A Digital Star
Playboy (fan request)
I Love Myself Today
Lover You Should Have Come Over (Jeff Buckley)
Good Enough (fan request)
It’s All Love
Encore: Comfortably Numb (with Channel One)
Just seeing the names and the order can give you a sense of what we were treated to last night but honestly it doesn’t come close to revealing how exceptional a concert this was.
First, let me point out that this was the first concert I’ve been to where Lukas has not performed one of my favorite pieces, (Angry) Memories of You. Yet, oddly enough, as much as I love that song and its lyrics and the manner in which Lukas performs it every time — ever-changing musical chameleon that he is — I did not ‘miss’ it or feel disappointed or cheated that it wasn’t on the playlist, probably because what I love about that song, its fiery intensity and uncompromising words, was breathed into all sorts of other songs that were, consequently, reinterpreted. Last night, Take Two was the new Angry Memories of You, as was Headspin and Lonely Ones, as is Disarm by the Smashing Pumpkins when he performs it.
Despite the fact that I have now been to 9 acoustic shows and 1 RockStar Supernova concert, I had never heard quite a few of the songs performed last night and the ones I had seen performed before I was rehearing as if for the first time.
To be continued….
Songs and Lyrics (Part II)
To say that Here Comes The Rain Again is a song by Eurythmics is a statement of fact but to call Lukas‘ interpretation of it a cover song would miss the mark by a mile. The song is so vastly transformed, as was Living On A Prayer on the RockStar Supernova TV show when Lukas reinvented a classic Bon Jovi song to the delight of many (and to the horror of others! although, apparently, Living On A Prayer was indeed initially written as a piano piece the way Lukas performed it). When artists are asked to ‘make a song their own’, to give it their own special touch, most don’t do what Lukas Rossi does, namely change the tempo or the mood or meaning of the song while retaining the basic flavour or beat. While interesting, what Marty Casey in Season 1 of the RockStar: INXS show did to a Britney Spears song, pales in comparison. Lukas so mutates the song as to give the impression that he originally wrote or performed it. Rare are those musicians who can make a classic song better in the remake than in the original. Honestly, I can’t even listen to the original Creep or Bittersweet Symphony and quite a few other ‘covers’ without them being overshadowed by Lukas Rossi‘s version. All this to say that Here Comes The Rain Again, once ‘Lukafied’, is no longer, and never will be, the same.
While Lukas Rossi, as any artist, no doubt starts out with a setlist, he does ‘size up’ the crowd very quickly and he ‘goes with the flow’ so to speak and takes the concert where it wants to go and charts a new, unplanned course. Perhaps it was the intimate setting (about 70 very devoted and attentive fans), or maybe on a whim, but Lukas strayed from his original course last night and actually granted 2 fan requests. The first was Playboy (which I heard at the last Ottawa show in 2007), requested by a gentleman sitting on the floor right in front of the stage among the peeps Lukas invited to ‘come on down’ à la Bob Barker (The Price is Right) from the outset (well, his actual words were: Get the fuck over here! but who cares?). Lukas does not like there to be this physical barrier of distance between him and the crowd, probably because he believes (rightly so, in my humble opinion) that it leads to emotional distance. The second request was made by Danny and his wife/girlfriend, fellow Lukas followers whom I’ve met and spoken to at Love & Lust concerts on 3 occasions and who had also driven down from Montreal for the show. They requested Good Enough from the comfort of their loveseat that they had turned around from the fireplace area to face the stage. Just like being in your living room, listening to a very talented friend pour his soul out to you in words and in music. ”Good choice!”, Lukas answered at the suggestion, before proceeding to honour the request. When Lukas had finished, Danny politely thanked him. Too fucking funny!
Songs and Lyrics (Part III)
I had never heard Riddled performed live either. Wow! What a treat! I’m a BIG fan of the older, nastier, edgier, rock’em-out Cleavage tunes, like Riddled, Grip, Honeysucker. So, imagine my delight when I realized that the performance of Riddled at the Oshawa concert was not a one-time thing! Honestly, I can’t wait to hear the full version of Trust Myself and Last Man Standing, of which we have only heard snippets it seems aeons ago when Lukas first introduced us to Stars Down tracks. These songs have the potential of capturing the all-out, drum-driven majesty that I so loved in the harder Cleavage tracks. Patience, patience, I know….
The Cleavage retrospective was completed by a rendition of Trust Me, which I had never heard live either. About to explode by then already! I also was exposed to two new songs on the setlist last night: I Love Myself Today (a Lukas Rossi original dedicated to his wife Kendra) and Lover You Should Have Come Over (a Jeff Buckley song). From what I can tell of the lyrics, I Love Myself Today is a song about how love makes us feel good about ourselves. (Slight parenthesis here: Lukas introduced the song by saying it was for his wife, which he followed up with ‘I love you babe!’ in her direction where she was seated to the side of the stage next to the throng of fans that had migrated to the area in front of Lukas. He explained the genesis of the song briefly and then said that it had a message: ‘Get laid a lot!’ he then exclaimed! Then, he looked up quizzically and blurted out: ‘What? You were expecting some deeper meaning?’ Hilarious!)
Songs and Lyrics (Part IV)
Now, for the pièce de résistance: the ‘deadly’ combo of War and Take 2 back-to-back. It packs quite a punch and really rips you up inside. The ‘new’ War we heard last night starts with 4 heart-rending shrieks in a row of the word ‘War’. Unbearable to listen to (actually hard to watch as well)! I will comment on some new lyrics in War. There’s a new line that goes:
It must have been hard to put away the (that?) gun
The song goes on to speak of wanting to ‘watch you die’ and is laced with religious imagery. If I heard correctly, I think a new lyric is something to the effect of taking/leading you ‘to the bloody Christ’ (or maybe cross? Maybe fransi@FringeMusic can shed some more light on this). Powerful stuff in any event!
There is nothing I can add that fransi@FringeMusic has not already so brilliantly written on the gut-wrenching piece called Take Two.
A few disparate tidbits to conclude my review of the musical tour-de-force that was the Algonquin College concert, mainly focussing on the lighter and humourous side of Lukas and his manager and wife Kendra:
Kendra told us an anecdote in the hallway as we were all waiting to be ushered back into the venue following Lukas‘ soundcheck. She told us how some fans will do just about anything to get closer to Lukas. Not knowing who she (Kendra) was, one female fan apparently tried to be admitted backstage once by claiming to be Lukas‘ girlfriend. Kendra, as she tells the story, then called out to Lukas: ‘Lukas, come here! Your girlfriend wants to see you!’ Lukas supposedly came out of the dressing room with a confused look on his face. Haha!
At the end of the concert, drained as everyone was by the sustained intensity of the performance, some peeps started getting up, assuming there would be no encore. Lukas waltzed back on stage and spoke into the mic: ‘Hey, the party ain’t over until I say it is!’. With that, he launched into Comfortably Numb.
Also, the show last night was being reviewed by a student at Algonquin College who wrote for the school paper. I sort of suspect from seeing her operate from the corner of my eye, taking pictures and notes throughout the concert, that she was more than slightly overwhelmed by the intensity of seeing Lukas Up Close and Personal.
That’s it and that’s all folks! Quite enough, wouldn’t you say?