Bill Callahan / Sir Richard Bishop Music Gallery, Toronto ON September 11

A vague sense of mischief was palpable when Bill Callahan brought an excellent band to Toronto on a sleepy, sinister Tuesday night. The church that houses the Music Gallery was the perfect foil for irreverent guitar virtuoso/Sun City Girls founder, Sir Richard Bishop, who held court with the air of a comedian irritated by his own surreal material. Bishop’s roughly hewn banter about religion was mostly met with quizzical chuckles but his smoking fretwork was jaw-dropping, reminiscent of Django Reinhardt (whom he covered) or Jimmy Page with Indian and Middle Eastern influences. As a fierce lightning storm raged outside, Bill Callahan led his formidable band to the pulpit and nonchalantly filled the humid venue with "Sycamore.” Graceful and serene, Callahan combed through the (Smog) catalogue all right but placed a particular emphasis on A River Ain’t Too Much To Love. Even as "I Feel like the Mother of the World” and "Bowery” drew attention to Callahan, it was tricky to resist casting an odd glance at drummer Thor Harris, who tended to an unorthodox, junk-strewn drum kit and synthesiser while standing up. Whatever the spectacle, songs like "Diamond Dancer,” "Cold Blooded Old Times” and "Bathysphere” held their gaze firmly enough and Callahan and company seemed at home in a house of God.