L7 Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, September 6
Published Sep 07, 2015"Popular demand" isn't always an effective way to lure a defunct band back on the road (see ABBA), but it worked for L7. Just a year ago, the four members of the band were still estranged after many years. But then in December, Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch and Dee Plakas acknowledged all of the renewed interest in their band, as well as 1990s alternative rock overall. The fact that it also happened to coincide with the band's 30th anniversary was just icing on the cake.
Returning to Toronto for the first performance in a "long ass time" (specifically since their Lee's Palace gig in 2000), the Los Angeles quartet were every bit as thrilled as their fans. Opening with Sparks' "Deathwish," they kept the "number one hits coming," according to the band, who switched vocalists to Gardner for "Andres" and Finch for "Everglade."
Their 1988 self-titled debut and final album, 1999's Slap-Happy, were completely ignored, with the bulk of the 80-minute set being comprised of 1990's Smell The Magic, 1992's Bricks Are Heavy and 1994's Hungry For Stink. As they broke into "One More Thing," Finch acknowledged that the Bricks song had never been played live back in the day.
And the banter was as electric as the songs. Calling for some "beer flying and hair pulling," a wig was tossed up on stage, which Sparks applauded and announced she would make her merkin. She also suffered a make-up malfunction, warning the crowd, "My raccoon eye make-up is fucking burning the fuck out of my eyes right now. Don't ever cheap out and buy Sephora! Hashtag #raccooneyetechniques."
For many fans, the show was another chance to relive their salad days, so some took it upon themselves to pogo and even get pushy during fan favourite "Shove," while the crowd-surfers flew up for "Shitlist," which Sparks sang like her head was going to explode.
When they walked out for the encore, they showed their gratitude, admitting, "We're really tough cookies with soft, soft centres." Sparks then paid tribute to her home country by yelling "Suck it USA!" before they kicked out "American Society." They then ended with their biggest hit, "Pretend We're Dead" and the charging "Fast & Frightening," on which Sparks demonstrated that she can still nail that guttural squeal with ease.
The world needs L7 as much now as it did during the alternative boom of the '90s. Their subversive sense of humour and brash confidence provides feminism with some much-needed comic relief and audacity, and on this night, as 50-somethings in a 30-year-old band, they looked, acted and sounded every bit as brazen as they did 25 years back. If only all reunions could be this successful.