New Yorker Theatre
High Class In Borrowed Shoes, Oh War!, Don't Be A Moon / Controversial, Gravity, America's Veins, Lily, Words to Words, Summer's Up, Only Your Nose Knows, Toronto Tontos, Hangover, Coming Off The Moon, Here Among The Cats
Max Webster played two sets at the New Yorker Theatre tonight, their first big headlining shows to a thousand people each. It seemed incredible to many that Max could sell out two shows when you could see them for free at any bar in Toronto for years.
"Johnnie Lovesin and His Invisible Band" is the clever name of the opening act, being just him and his guitar. At least, until Greg Godovitz (guitar) and Marty Morin (drums) joined him for three tunes before the Max Machine hit the stage.
Tonight they perform a two part song called "Don't Be A Moon / Controversial". Kim says that their sophomore effort High Class In Borrowed Shoes will be released on May 1 and that this piece will be included, which would indicate that it was axed not long before pressing. Without a doubt this piece is more Zappa-like than any track released by the band, which may account for its exclusion. The band performed dozens of songs on stage before they were released on albums (especially in the earlier days), and this is one of many that wouldn't survive past the live environment.
On some nights around this time Kim would introduce the song thus: "Don't be a moon, be a star. Don't be a doughnut hole."
After America's Veins, many audience members ask, "where's the head?" They're referring to the blockhead modeled after the debut album artwork that used to sit behind Terry, but it was recently stolen (and recovered, but damaged). They heckle the band after the next song too, and Kim responds by briefly lampooning Peter Frampton.
Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, 1977-1981 by By Liz Worth and Gary Pig Gold contains an anecdote from these shows.
Johnnie Lovesin and the Invisible Band
Kim Mitchell - Vocals/Guitar
Mike Tilka - Bass
Terry Watkinson - Keyboards
Gary McCracken - Drums
Max Webster's two concerts at the New Yorker Saturday night represented a turning point for the local rock scene.
It was not just the first time this Toronto-based quartet headlined a show. It was the first time that what might be called the new rock sensibility was shown in strength.
And it wasn't just that both shows were nearly sold out. Rush, after all, has been able to pack both Massey Hall and the concert bowl at Maple Leaf Gardens. What was different this time was that Max Webster was able to play a new kind of rock and have it completely understood by what amounted to a new kind of rock audience.
Perhaps it's easier to understand Max Webster's music by understanding what it isn't about. It has little to do with the Rush-Led Zeppelin over-amplified, blues-based heavy metal style with all its science-fiction overtones. That style really represents the frazzled tail-end of the '60s, a kind of vast electronic death-twitch, the end of the line.
Max Webster is mining new territory. This band's music has little to [do] with sentimentality. Even in a commercial song like High Class In Borrowed Shoes — the title track from the forthcoming second album — there was little to make it soft and appealing. The lyrics were alternatively wry, cynical and eccentric. It was a song that was both funny and not funny at the same time.
Sixties rock usually dealt with vague longings; it romanticized its subject matter, offering you a way out of yourself. Max Webster offered no such escape.