Review of Poptone Live @ L’Astral
If you walked in off the street tonight, you would never guess that the band on stage was performing songs from the late 70s to late 80s. Many bands of that era leave me saying: What was I thinking buying that Album?
While all my peers where listening to Classic Rock on CHOM or pop hits of the FM flavor, I was learning about Alternative. Depeche Mode got me hooked, and down I went, into the rabbit hole, to search out more and more obscure bands. Claude Rajotte was our curator of the new sound, and from his pulpit, I was introduced to the Bauhaus, Tones on Tail & Love and Rockets, among the slew of underground bands he brought to the airwaves.
Tonight, among a full crowd of similar age, we relived these songs in a new light. Daniel Ash, now 60, would probably outlast some of the young musicians on stage. Kevin Haskins, a young 57, is joined by his daughter Diva Dompé. All three were in fine form as they dished out 17 memories from a time we still remember so well.
Poptone, and not The Poptones, which sounds like a Mowtown group, formed at the beginning of 2017. Born from falling asleep while watching YouTube and being woken up by “Ace of Spades” from Motorhead, Daniel felt he had to perform live again.
The night would start with Automatic, from L.A.. Playing songs from their self-titled album, this trio set the tone with some Joy Division percussions meets Gary Numan synth sound. I was quite amazed at the sound produced with drums (Lola Dompé), Synths (Izzy Glaudini) and the driving bass of Halle Saxon, without a guitarist.
It took a few songs before Izzy cracked a smile, clearly happy to be here. The band shared vocal duties, and created a great ambiance for the evening to come.
Halle told me, after the show, that they have been opening for Poptone the whole tour. Her first time in Montreal, they visited St-Denis street yesterday on their day off, although a little hung over. Nevertheless, the warm sunny day made an impression and they wish to return.
At 9h15, a very long intro of “Rain” brought the band to the stage. Daniel Ash, sporting a Mohawk and white sunglasses that Kurt Cobain would approve, started us mellow with “I Feel Speed”.
After the second song, “Haunted When the Minutes Drag”, Kevin lost a nut from his high hat. His furious drumming would require this crucial piece, so the band paused as the roadie searched for it. Daniel joked that this was on purpose so that it would be something different for YouTube. Diva gave us a knock knock joke: Knock Knock. Who’s there? 2. 2 who? No…it’s to whom. Intellectual bass humour.
During this impromptu intermission, someone passed a flask to Daniel, who took a swig and returned the container to its owner. The show continued without a hitch.
For “No Big Deal”, Daniel took a Bass guitar to complement Diva’s immaculate strumming. First of all, I was surprised at the sound that is produced by only a bass, without a guitar, like Automatic. Now with two basslines, the loss of the guitar did not diminish the sound. Diva’s playing was awe inspiring. Her fingers would dance on the strings at breakneck speeds, all the while she would bop slowly, as cool as can be. Her dad was just as dexterous on the drums, hands blurry from the speed.
Daniel is a performer. Having clocked more years on stage than many musicians have been alive, he is a showman that does not disappoint. I shall not say: I wish I saw him at the peak of his career. I believe he is at the peak of his career, giving his former songs new life and hopefully a new fanbase of the younger generation.
The highlight, without a doubt, was “Ball of Confusion” to close out the set. Why this song is not yet the anthem of our current world is beyond me. Borrowed from 1970 from The Temptations, this was the song that put Love and Rockets on the map. The lyrics are frightfully accurate, even more so today. The only thing that is lost in the song is the expression “googa mooga”. Maybe they were hinting at Google!
The band would give us 2 encores, of course with another classic “Go!” to close the 2 song 1stencore.
The last song would be “Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)” where Daniel and Diva chanted: Beauty beauty beauty beautiful.
It was a beautiful night of killer performances and memories brought back to life. The songs aged as gracefully as Kevin & Daniel, only becoming better with the passing of time, like a fine wine.
Intro: Rain (Tones on Tail)
I Feel Speed (Love and Rockets)
Haunted When the Minutes Drag (Love and Rockets)
All in My Mind (Love and Rockets)
Mirror People (Love and Rockets)
Movement of Fear (Tones on Tail)
Happiness (Tones on Tail)
No Big Deal (Love and Rockets)
Lions (Tones on Tail)
Love Me (Love and Rockets)
Burning Skies (Tones on Tail)
Performance (Tones on Tail)
Christian Says (Tones on Tail)
Ball of Confusion (Temptations)
Alien Love (Daniel Ash)
Go! (Tones on Tail)
An American Dream (Love and Rockets)
Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man) (Love and Rockets)
Review & Photos by Randal Wark