by carl wilson

In The Boneyard

hckatwijk3.jpg
The Hidden Cameras.

I knew I'd left someone off yesterday's Canuck-band list: The Hidden Cameras, of course - whose latest collaboration with Toronto Dance Theatre, In the Boneyard, premiered tonight. Last year's first TDT-HCs project, You Are the Same (which I covered in this feature) was extraordinarily successful - the HCs best-loved songs combined with beautiful-silly modern dance, in a studio space that had the dancers and band members not only mixing it up with one another but with the audience, who ended up dancing on stage with the performers by the end.

This year's edition takes place in a fancier proscenium theatre, and it features all-new songs from the Cameras' 2006 album Awoo (recorded but as yet unheard). That shift has many consequences.

This year's show is better designed, nicely lit, has a fun four-level scaffolded set that gives the cast lots of opportunities to climb all over it barefooted and strike different configurations for every song-scene, and more sensuously costumed. Everyone, dancer or Camera, looks gorgeous, together and individually. There's more of Christopher House's vivacious and loose-limbed choreography. Joel Gibb, lead Camera, plays a more central role in this production, serving as more of a master of ceremonies and focal point, and taking more performance risks. We get to hear the band's new songs, which take some interesting turns away from the HCs' familiar dirty-anthem style towards something less archetypical, more directly emotional (with those Talking Heads and Smiths influences pressing up closer to the surface). And the Cameras themselves go much further as amateur dancers - and the dancers as amateur musicians - than in the first production, which is a charming and inspiring spectacle. (The more awkward the better, I say.) At 70 minutes, it feels too short - I wanted to see the whole thing again immediately.

But "spectacle" is the most apt description of In the Boneyard. Just as the Cameras have shifted the emphasis somewhat (though certainly not entirely) away from the collective-communal experience to Joel's specific voice as a songwriter, this show is not the participatory immersive love-in that the first was. The proscenium arch is a formidable barrier, and while that fourth wall does get breached, it never truly collapses. (It might help if the forays into the crowd came sooner in the show.) The more formal space also tends to bring out a more dance-performance crowd, less of an indie-rock one, which tends to raise the audience's reticence level too. They warmed up eventually, but it took much longer. And for the Cameras fan the all-new setlist is quite a lot to swallow at once: Much of the pleasure in 2004 was to see how the songs had been reconceived as dance, but in this case you have to try to catch the gist of the songs in the process, so inevitably you miss bits of each. Which is exciting but, along with the greater audience distance, less of a cathartic joy than the first show.

That said it's still more than worth your time, and in fact I'm thinking of heading back to see it a second time on Friday or Saturday - I'm curious how it will develop over the week, and suspect there's a lot of thematic threads running through it that will reveal themselves on second viewing. (And if anyone reading also saw the show, I'm eager to hear your perspectives, in the comments or by email.) For now, night-night.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, November 23 at 12:29 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)

 

COMMENTS

Well said. You captured many of my thoughts which I forgot in my own review. It was a challenge for the seasoned Hidden Cameras fan to a) try to actually focus on the new songs b) watch the dancers c) observe the band and d) not get up and dance ourselves. And yes, 70 minutes was definitely too short.

I also agree that the show took more of a central focus on Joel, which was an interesting touch, considering in a normal concert he doesn't really take center stage with all the business going on elsewhere. I really liked his "political idol" performance, inspiring the masses to run around and scream in hysterics but always return to him. It was very... Stalinist.

And the crowd on Wednesday seemed to be evenly mixed between the dance and music fans, but those that stayed Q&A; session afterwards were most definitely primarily dance geeks. (My favourite was some guy compared it to a Lighthouse/Royal Winnipeg Ballet fiasco from the 80's... i should really read up on that)

Posted by graig on November 25, 2005 10:31 AM

 

 

thanks frank.
true true.

cheers
-aviva

Posted by suckingalemon on November 24, 2005 04:25 PM

 

 

I attended last night and had an amazing time. I didn't see last year's shows, so I don't have that frame of reference, but I thought it was truly splendid.

and aviva - I brought my camera but left it in the bag until the very end when people were standing and clapping and whatnot. Even without a flash, it definitely did not feel like the sort of environment to be snapping away. An LCD screen would have been pretty conspicuous to anyone behidn you. And anyway, you really don't want to be distracted away from the show even for a moment.

Posted by frank on November 24, 2005 11:14 AM

 

 

im hoping to attend this on friday.
your review made me a little sad that it will not be as crazy as i heard the first was, but excited at the same time.

and from what iv heard of their new album that they have been revealing bits and peices of over shows this past year, i really like it.

btw. i have to ask.
did you see anyone with cameras in there?
because mine works pretty good without flash if the lighting is well done and id love to get some of it on film, but im guessing they aint camera happy at this theater...

thanks.

cheers
-aviva

Posted by suckingalemon on November 23, 2005 05:36 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson