Black Lips – [Live]

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

No decade has produced more bands that seem to tour tirelessly than the 2000s. Since record sales began to decline, bands have had to work harder to get noticed and get paid, and there is no better way to do that than to keep a full calendar of live shows. Every time The Black Lips return to Toronto, they get bigger and more fantastic. Even though their show remains the same, the non-stop movement and complete lack of self-control always manages to make the audience spin like a carnival ride.

The doors of the Phoenix Concert Theater opened at 8:00 pm, but supporting act Vivian Girls didn’t walk on stage until 10:00. Despite the Girls' last showing in Toronto two years ago which was plagued by bad sound and poor show etiquette, it seemed apparent that playing fifteen shows in three days at SXSW this year helped to hone theVivian Girls' edge because their sloppy, low-fi sound was much more polished on this visit. Guitarist Cassie Ramone’s haunting vocals coupled with her casual, experimental solos gripped listeners with gloss and grit. Watching drummer Fiona Campbell hit the skins in an un-restraining blue dress made you think how free it must feel to not have to drum in pants.

Besides a Dundas Square appearance at NXNE, this Phoenix show was the biggest venue the Black Lips have played in all their yearly Toronto visits. They finally had to succumb to the fact that they had outgrown the small clubs they tend to frequent. Although the Lips currently limit their notorious stage antics (French kissing, nudity, vomit), nothing was lacking in their powerful pageant of playful destruction. With smiles plastered on their faces, the band opened with the staple crowd-erupter “Sea of Blasphemy.” The Lips were all about action as they bobbed up and down playing “Oh Katrina,” “Boomerang” and debuts of new tunes from their forthcoming Marc Ronson-produced album, Arabia Mountain. Guitarist Cole Alexander dipped and dove and dripped spit off his axe while dressed in his signature train conductor/prison inmate costume, and even though he’s from dirty south Atlanta, one hopes the teardrop tattoos below his left eye are fake. Fans stormed the stage just to roll back in the crowd and if the Lips wouldn’t have had to unplug their instruments to do it, they probably would have been crowd surfing too. They pride themselves on fan interaction and give free reign to anyone who wants to interrupt their show. Even though they were playing to a big crowd in a club with a 25-foot ceiling, no intimacy was lost. All raunch and roll remained and the Lips once again proved their generosity and modesty and mostly that they’re the best live act of this decade.



Arabia Mountain
will be released on June 7 via Vice Records, but is not yet available to pre-order on Amazon. Stay tuned to Ground Control for more information as it becomes available.

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