Roky Erickson in Toronto – A Review

October 29, 2009 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized)

I think I first heard Roky Erickson’s music when I was working as a DJ at McMaster University’s CFMU in the mid-eighties. It was porblably one of those countless Roky Erickson albums (Maybe Don’t Slander Me?) that were released here and there, but the majesty of Starry Eyes, Bermuda, and Don’t Slander Me grabbed me immediately.  The discovery of the Elevators came later.

When I read about the show, I dropped everything to grab a ticket, reasoning, correctly as it turned out, the show would sell-out. Roky is 62, and this is the first time he has played Toronto. Given his history, I didn’t think it wise to wait for another. I see him as a little like Walter Bishop on Fringe. Brilliant, but sometimes erratic. This was likely to be a once in a lifetime show.  

So down to Lee’s Palace on a wet  Wednesday night. I’ve seen lots of great bands at Lees: Superchunk, Teenage Fanclub, Steve Wynn, Yo La Tengo, Son Volt and many more. But it’s been a long time, and Lee’s has completely changed its layout. Actually, it’s better that I remember. There seems to be more space, and the sight lines are better. 

The Sadies took the stage at 9:15 and played their usual fine set.  If you’ve never seen the Sadies (why not?), then you’ve missed a treat. How many other bands do you know can cover the Gun Club, the Byrds and Elvis on the same album, and still make the songs sound their own?   The only problem with their set was the same one that faces any support band – everyone is waiting for the main event. Still, the brothers Good didn’t disappoint. 

Roky took the stage at 10:30. I had read on the Lee’s site that the Sadies would be his backing band, but no, it was a different set of musicians. A few seconds after hitting the stage, they launched into Cold Night for Alligators from 1980’s Roky Erickson and the Aliens. This period in Roky’s career seemed to focus on aliens, sci-fi monsters and the Devil. In fact, a good deal of the set (see list below) were drawn from this period. The last three songs were a bit earlier: two from the 13th Floor Elevators’ debut and the final song, Two Headed Dog was a 1975 single with Starry Eyes.

At around the one hour mark, the show ended. Roky barked at the audience, his only words to you, and the band left the stage. We waited for what seemed like an eternity for an encore. Thunderous cheering, and then…the house lights came up. Was it us? We cheered pretty hard. Maybe he was just tired. Disappointment set in, and we trudged home.

An amazing  show. Soaring rock ‘n’ roll.   

I never thought I’d see Roky Erickson; this was a night to remember.

Setlist

It’s a Cold Night for Alligators
Creature with the Atom Brain
The Wind and More
Starry Eyes
Don’t Shake me Lucifer
Bloody Hammer
Stand for the Fire Demon
I Walked with a Zombie *
Night of the Vampire *
The Beast
Splash 1 (13th Floor Elevators)
You’re Gonna Miss Me (13th Floor Elevators)
Red Temple Prayer( aka Two Headed Dog)

All of the above tracks with the exception of the asterisked ones are contained on the two CD set I Have always Been Here. A good investment.

PS My own efforts to photgraph parts of the show, failed miserably. anyone have any pictures to share?

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