23
Mar
08

Dirty and Sweet: The Raveonettes in Toronto


This past Good Friday was indeed good with The Raveonettes’ gig at The Opera House in Toronto. I’ve never had the privilege to see the Danish duo live before, and I’m very happy I got to witness them on stage. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo filled the vaudeville stage with incredible swathes of sound and intricately crafted noise, the stagefloor littered with effects pedals. Their guitars chirped, chimed, buzzed and bounced throughout the relatively small venue, producing a hybrid of a 50’s prom and a space age rave.

Image is just as intrinsic to The Raveonettes as the music – they are a fascinating combination of Europe and Americana. They come across like the aloof cool kids who somehow ended up presiding over a 50’s prom in the future. Their symmetry on stage is perfect – Sune stands stage right and Sharin stands stage left, leaving a fairly large gap between them with the androgynous female drummer standing in the middle of the gap towards the back of the stage. And the drummer does stand – she bangs away at the drums like one would in an orchestra rather than sitting behind a traditional drumkit, all to a perfect visual effect. Seeing her sticks come down on the drums in such an obvious way, further emphasizes the classic Ronettes drumbeat that runs throughout most of their songs.

Sune and Sharin contrast but match at the same time – he is slight of build with dark hair while she towers above him on high heels and sports a platinum blonde pageboy haircut. He looks fragile in his Endless Summer t-shirt and skinny jeans, while she looks austere in her sequined black and silver dress. At the same time, they both have the same aloof look on their faces as they stare out over the audience with their kohl-lined eyes. No matter how fast and danceable their music gets, they stay nearly motionless behind their microphones as their hands move in a blur over their guitars. Sometimes this stance is broken as Sharin gently sways her head to the beat and Sune backs away, sliding his pointy shoes around the stage, as he performs a guitar solo. But they always come back to formation, a repressed tension filling the space between them and crackling along with their reverbing guitars. None of this distance makes them appear rude or arrogant – when they speak to the audience in between songs, they appear quite soft-spoken and gracious; instead, they seem to have an inherent, effortless coolness that makes you envy them because you know they’re untouchable. You can’t take your eyes off them in their mesmerizing detachment.

The Raveonettes’ fusion of distortion and Spector-like walls of sound and drums makes them undeniably like The Jesus and Mary Chain, especially the Psychocandy period. Other obvious reference points are 60’s girl groups like The Ronettes and the distortion of Sonic Youth; however, their light vocals meld into each other so gently that they sound like one androgynous, dreamy voice. It never ceases to amaze me that they can create as many songs as they do with the same sound, same chord progressions, same drumbeat patterns, but with distinctive melodies that constantly update their 50’s and 60’s simplicity with something intangibly original. Their songs have the magic to transport you back to an America of milkshake fantasy and arrested adolescence while creating an excitement and a spacey atmosphere that belongs to a future as imagined by the 1960’s.
Blowing through a set that mainly consisted of songs under three minutes, they played many songs off their latest album Lust Lust Lust, opening with Hallucinations, and going on to play Dead Sound, Blush, Lust, Black Satin, You Want the Candy, and The Best Dies. Faster songs like Blush and You Want the Candy soared through the venue propelled by drums and sweet melodies, and Sharin’s vocal on The Best Dies in tandem with Sune’s lazy lullaby of guitar strumming were entrancing and hypnotic. Sune, staring into the middle distance and flickering his eyelids in an idiosyncratic blink, often strummed while holding the whammy bar as his hand moved up and down the frets with a careless ease. In breaks from vocals, he would hunch over his guitar and lurch in time with the downbeats. Sharin, seeming to be channeling the spirits of Debbie Harry, Nico, and Agnetha from Abba all at once, strummed her guitar with the same abandon and characteristic staccato strums Sune did. They would trade off melodies and effects, taking turns holding down all the strings with one hand while shredding furiously up and down with the other hand. In addition to newer material, they played songs from Pretty in Black, Chain Gang of Love, and their EP Whip It On, including That Great Love Sound, Let’s Rave On, Noisy Summer, Love in a Trashcan, Attack of the Ghost Riders, and My Tornado. After the show, a bemused fan couldn’t get over the fact that Sharin had actually knelt next to her effects pedals to readjust the calibre of her “noise.” The pink and black colour motif that The Raveonettes often use is a perfect one to represent music that is both sweet like bubblegum and dark with dirty distortion, dissonant chords and Velvet Underground-like lyrics of decadence.
The climax of the show for me was the final song of the set proper: the first single off their latest album, Aly, Walk With Me. It’s droning darkness and the chiming dissonant guitar chords paired with their nearly monotone vocals makes the song both beautiful and unsettling live. At the end of the song, Sune and Sharin both turned their backs on the audience and hunched over their guitars to make a blazing cacophony of white noise. Their encore was a tender performance of Love Can Destroy Everything followed by a rendition of Twilight, which finally saw Sune and Sharin close the physical gap between them by facing each other and creating a mirror image as their hands flew over their guitars.


I have to mention the opening band, Black Acid, just because they were so terrible. They looked like an identikit indie hipster singer backed by four homeless men. I’ve never seen a more disinterested band in my life. The singer, wearing red pointy shoes, skinny jeans and a dinner jacket over a t-shirt, was probably trying to seem cool by being indifferent to performing and to his audience, compulsively drinking beer as he walked around the stage in lieu of playing an instrument, but instead he just came off like a boring jackass. His voice was so low in the mix that I could only catch snatches of it – good thing since he sounded like a chipmunk caught in a combine. And the songs they played were so repetitive and endless, I was ready to claw my way out of my own skin. In all their efforts to be as cool as The Raveonettes, they just ended up being their antithesis. And proved that The Raveonettes know what they’re doing.

All of my photos from this gig can be viewed via an album on my MySpace page.

Aly, Walk With Me – The Raveonettes

You Want the Candy – The Raveonettes

That Great Love Sound – The Raveonettes

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2 Responses to “Dirty and Sweet: The Raveonettes in Toronto”


  1. 1 harold hollingsworth
    March 26, 2008 at 11:22 am

    great review, a great band!

  2. 2 Edie
    May 1, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Awesome band. Thanks for posting some (relatively) clear pictures from the show. My pictures didn’t turn out so well…


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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

Photobucket

You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

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Make me smell like myself

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To make me smell like someone else

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I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Douse himself with cheap perfume

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There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

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Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

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Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

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Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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