Photos (1-6) Copyright © Rita Puglisi 2002
Photos (7-12) Copyright © Serafino B. Catallo 2002

April 30th, 2002 Tuesday
Lee's Palace

To Be
Shining Road
Future Song
Flute Song
Pale Blue Sky

Far Away
Driving in the Sun

Review by Serafino B. Catallo

Alison Shaw approaches the microphone gingerly, hovering there like a butterfly anticipating her cue…and then breathlessly coos the opening lyrics to Cloudless. The playfully melodic chiming of its intro fills the air around her in a thick blanket like the clanging of church bells in the fog of an early morning. Her voice fluid, chill, elegant chants, "Like jumping in the breeze, Falling in the sea, You live up there. Like things she tried to keep, Moments as you sleep, You live up there. Angels in her hair, Warm as summer air, You live up there………" Her hands gesticulating almost freakishly but deliberately, as though forcing the words free.

Cranes' show at Lee's Palace in Toronto affirmed the band's status as one of modern music's most darkly beautiful and sensual acts. At times shuddering and snarling but most often cinematic and ethereal, Cranes' performance was without pretension; Alison is simple, undecorated except for her flip flops that anchor her willowy frame that sports a baby doll dress over jeans. Jim is characteristically pallid and flinching playfully but annoyingly in and out of the adequate lighting. But Cranes tonight are just, just right - as I hoped they would be. Finding a quick connection with their devout crowd, they delve into Future Song and Flute Song fielding a gentler and more settled interpretation of their catalogue that defines their current and latest release Future Songs.

Callender is exceptional on percussion/drums as he wallops through songs like Adrift and yields steady seductive trance rhythms upon which the shimmering synth pads of songs like Fragile waft effortlessly. Alison treads the stage wonderingly, distraught even, drifting cautiously as though the ground underfoot was somehow disappearing…and it is. For the audience too as it opens and swallows us - never letting go. Then it's the jangly acoustic rhythms of Jewel and the hauntingly minimal intro of Far and Away with its ominous bass accompaniment and persistently and delicately arranged piano notes played singularly to accent the hollow backdrop of its structure. Foreboding.

Then the Cranes launch into Adoration. My heart stops. Adoration, the dramatic closing epic of 1991's Wings of Joy album, an undeniably ultracreative and breathtaking elegy, is why I'm here tonight…and Alison delivers. Cranes are at their best during songs like these. The haughty opening piano is funereal with the distinctive single note arrangement drowned in reverb. If there was ever something so sorrowful, so sad, so stark and stripped as Ali chanting hymnally to Adoration…oh Ali! Threatening percussive rhythms pound beneath while a beautiful orchestra of synths cascade up and over bleeding into its climax. Now, in full bloom, a gorgeous drama ensues. If you didn't know Cranes, you knew them now because Adoration IS Cranes - in all their complexity and all their simplicity.

The fractured wailing guitar of Everywhere and Lilies live up to their live art-rock sound. "Where am I?" a fan invokes. The crowd jeers and incites Alison to react but she is shy and retracted. Someone heckles her regarding how difficult it was getting into the country, "Now that was hard," she jokes. As an encore Alison straps on a guitar and begins strumming the chords to Driving in the Sun, an instant Cranes classic embodying the flighty spirit and melodic sound reminiscent of Cloudless. Somehow it is totally appropriate, totally perfect, so completely complete…an obvious closer.

Other than the minor technical sound problems (a persistent humming was plaguing the band's sound between and during a handful of songs) Cranes rose to a level of musical achievement that did not disappoint.

Review by Serafino B. Catallo

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