Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Show Review: Do Make Say Think & Greed - Live at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Tuesday October 5, 2010

Toronto’s post-rockers Do Make Say Think took on the ambitious act of scoring the 1924 silent film epic, Greed, by Erich von Stroheim. The original version of the film runs an astonishing seven hours in length but luckily for the band, this version was scrapped. While a marathon concert and film screening would have been nice, it probably would have been a bit tolling on everyone. Those attending last night’s screening of Greed watched a two and a half hour performance from the band, which is still longer than most concerts.

Joined by members of Broken Social Scene and the Weakerthans, Do Make Say Think and their friends filled the Bell Lightbox stage with several guitars, electric bass, upright bass, a horn section, drums and percussion and several classical stringed instruments. Having scored the silent film Tales of the Uncanny last summer during the Luminato Festival, it was clear from the get-go that Do Make Say Think were comfortable amongst their musical friends, the quiet and attentive audience, and the classic film being projected above them.

The truly successful silent films are rich in emotion, allowing the acting and the plot to make up for the lack of speech. The plot of Greed is highly emotive in and of itself. Middle-class couple Mac and Trina McTeague win a $5,000 lottery and the selfishness and greed that ensues is not unlike what happens to modern day lottery winners. Needless to say, their “friends” and family all believe they deserve a piece of the pie. Mac’s best friend Marcus is especially adamant that lottery money belongs to him. After all, he set Mac up with his cousin Trina, who he then married.

The Do Make Say Think ensemble expertly captured both the initial happiness of the characters as well as the growing tension between them. Mellow and lush arrangements were used to fill out sections of the film where the story line was being established, while eerie and ambient noises filled the theatre as Mac began to question his relationship with his wife. A spirited take on the traditional song “Freight Train” was one of two non-original pieces by the group. Finger-picked guitar notes bounced playfully against a chugging drum beat as characters sifted through dirt with hopeful faces at the gold mines.

The climax of both the film and the score came as Mac finally let his anger towards his stingy wife take over, brutally beating Trina to death in order to claim her lottery winnings. The musicians steadily pounded deep and dark sounds from their instruments. The sounds growing louder and fiercer with every moment. The music emanating from the stage mimicked both the anger and madness that was happening on screen so well, that it was easy to forget that this was not the original scoring to Greed.

After two and a half hours the movie came to an end and the collective of musicians finally put down their instruments. Witnessing a live scoring is an immensely impressive thing. The sounds created by Do Make Say Think and their friends were completely original but more importantly, familiar enough that you truly believed you were watching a real film score. It comes as no surprise that the band is interested in scoring more films and after attending Greed, I’m eager to see what they tackle next.

Photo Credits: Dimitri Sarantis

No comments: