The Notwist / Themselves Lee's Palace, Toronto ON - February 7, 2004

It's a good thing the Notwist cancelled their last Toronto trip in April when SARS was threatening us, not just with death, but with the Guess Who and eight-dollar beers (which is worse?), because SARS would have got Markus Acher. SARS would have searched out and invaded the Notwist front-man's Garth Algar frame and demeanour. His voice, disposition and mannerisms make you want to give him a hug and offer yourself up as a crutch; it's hard to believe, then, that such a doddery man and his band of equally tenuous tech-pop nerds could move a crowd with such force. Extended versions of "One With the Freaks" and "Consequence" saw the airtight Germans strike a perfect balance of improvisation and discipline. Particularly effective was Martin Gretschmann, who manned a nuclear power plant control board of gadgetry with skill and aplomb (and managed to look startlingly similar to a haggard Dr. Strangelove in the process). The quartet dipped into their back catalogue for fans familiar with the group's pre-Neon Golden material. "Day Seven" and "Puzzle" were beguiling artefacts that should help new listeners trace the evolution of the band's current sublimated sound. Openers Themselves, however, seemed hell-bent on destroying any ounce of credibility their brand of socially conscious hip-hop may have garnered. MC Doseone does move his tongue quickly and has the admirable courage to wear a single silk glove, but is a picture of George Bush with the caption "terrorist" the least bit subversive anymore? It certainly isn't creative, and, by all accounts, neither were Themselves.