TMZ is reporting that Oprah has settled a defamation lawsuit with the former head mistress of her school for girls.
Nomvuyo Mzamane claimed that the talk show host made falsified and defamatory comments about her after a sex abuse scandal at the girls school in 2007, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
The trial was supposed to begin Monday in Philadelphia and Oprah was expected to take the stand.
On what was supposed to be a day of rain, Virgin Festival’s Sunday installment thankfully remained dry while offering up what was, overall, a better line-up than on sunny Saturday (best performance of the weekend still goes to Bjork, however).
The list of bands I’d hoped to catch was double that of the day before, so a relatively early trip to the Toronto Islands was needed. After sifting through the first security line, then the ferry entrance line, then the ferry exit line, then the ticket line, then the second security line, I quickly made my way to catch the final few minutes of a side-stage performance from DD/MM/YYYY (Day Month Year). Their sound is an explosive mash, and the band members play musical chairs with instruments, but it all comes together in a delightful mess. The Toronto boys also have a great time, at one point urging the crowd to take back the “raise the roof” motion. “I can’t believe you guys just did that,” quipped the drummer/singer after a disquieting number of watchers joined in.
Crossing the river onto Olympic Island, the site of the festival’s main stage, brought the reggae-influenced Britpop sounds of Jamie T. While not necessarily my taste in music, the singer charmed the crowd to no end, bringing the audience interaction to one of the festival’s requisite English performances after Arctic Monkeys failed abysmally on Saturday.
Next came a set from Toronto’s very own Tokyo Police Club, a band that has enjoyed a huge surge of success, sure to continue growing after their recently inked deal with Saddle Creek Records. They played a tight set, received amazingly well by the cheering crowd, many of whom flooded toward the stage in the minutes before their set time.
With a lull in main-stage action, I headed back over to one of the side-stages for an uninspired set from Blonde Redhead. Not being familiar with much more than their name, I found the music largely ignorable; the most interesting aspect of the performance was a fake, stuffed horse that front-woman Kazu Makino used for a keyboard bench. This band likely translates better in a smaller, darker club, but falls flat outdoors in the daylight.
Right after, however, came a rejuvenating yet all-too-short performance from The Constantines. The band is well known for their amazing club shows, but they have no problem commanding a festival stage. With two new songs (plus the announcement that their next album will be released on Broken Social Scene-populated label Arts & Crafts), they tore through half an hour of tracks from all three of their LPs, including opener “Draw Us Lines,” “Nighttime/Anytime,” and closing pick “Young Lions.” Sadly, they inexplicably ended their set 40 minutes before the following band was scheduled to play, the notice of “last song” coming from somewhere offstage and seemingly catching the band by surprise.
Crossing the river again, I maneuvered through the insanely packed crowd. Since last year, a number of fenced-in areas had been added to the side of the main stage, completely congesting all areas with a decent view, when many had room for blankets (and breathing) last time. Next up was the night’s most anticipated performance, judging from audience excitement, with the Killers taking the penultimate slot. The first (and only) time I’d previously seen this band was at a small Toronto club, opening for Stellastarr, who still plays small clubs. Things have changed. Brandon Flowers is obviously a gifted front-man, but there is a distinct air of entitled arrogance that envelops the group. From the victory parade-like music of their video montage opening to Flowers’ glittery gold jacket, the whole performance is rather pompously over-the-top. The crowd digs it, though, and “Somebody Told Me” gets a bigger sing-a-long going than any other song on either day of the festival.
I didn’t stay long, though, as British band Editors was set to headline one of the side-stages. After another battle through the over-packed crowd, I found a fairly small gathering for the Joy Division-inspired group. Despite the frequent comparisons to Interpol, this band is an entirely different experience live. Unlike Interpol singer Paul Banks, Editors front-man Tom Smith is energetic and engaging, prodding the crowd for cheers, throwing kicks in the air, and generally showing a demeanor that definitely doesn’t find its way through the band’s dark, deep sound. The group seemed genuinely appreciative of the rousing response from the crowd (which grew as they played), and rewarded with a strong, sharp set of material from both The Back Room and An End Has a Start. This is definitely a rising group worth catching on a return visit.
To close the night and this year’s installment of Virgin Festival came Billy Corgan and his mostly non-original pack of Smashing Pumpkins (the reformed group features only Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain from the band’s original lineup). The performance was the band’s second in Canada since regrouping (they played Montreal the night before), and rivaled the Killers in terms of anticipation. Opening with “United States” from their recent album Zeitgeist, the band sounded tight. Unfortunately, the song spun into an extended guitar solo featuring Hendrix-inspired renditions of both American and Canadian national anthems. It was a little much for early on in the set. Quickly adding to the disappointment was the lackluster performance of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” that followed. Corgan sounded passionless compared with the song’s intense original version, despite the fact that it didn’t seem to be a slowed-down or otherwise reworked performance of the song. The band was quickly living up to the watered-down standards linked with so many reformed groups (though decades usually separate them from their heydays).
But the Pumpkins’ improved, and with a solid performance of “Tonight, Tonight,” plus blistering shots of “Zero” and current single “Tarantula,” the band proved that there is some grounds to justify their pseudo-reunion. Corgan’s interaction with the crowd was limited to the odd “thanks,” but he put a little more of himself out there for the audience with an acoustic, solo version of “1979″ that must’ve opened many a memory floodgate across the park. Closing their main set was another strong performance in “Heavy Metal Machine” from 2000′s Machina/The Machines of God, which Corgan amusingly transitioned into a cover of Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again.” Clever. After a short break, the band returned for a quick, one-song encore of “Today.” And while the second and final day of Toronto’s Virgin Festival 2007 may not have been the greatest ever, considering the crowds and the cloud-cover, it was pretty alright.
With a weaker line-up than on Sunday, the advantage for Virgin Festival Day One was in a sunny, blue sky and a light, cool breeze. With only a few bands that I really wanted to catch, the day was spent mostly walking between the stages, enjoying the atmosphere of another concert festival on the beautiful Toronto Islands (versus the sparse fields and dusty bowl of Barrie’s Molson Park, the only comparably-sized/suited venue in the Greater Toronto Area).
I started off at one of two side-stages, catching the latter half of a set from local Arts & Crafts-ters The Most Serene Republic. Lead singer Adrian Jewett was clearly having fun, rolling around on the huge and bouncing around like a sugared-up kid. Their new album, Population (due out October 2 on A&C), was featured prominently, and it sounds great, with Jewett having toned down some of the nasally vocals that grated slightly on their first LP.
After an extended stop at the autograph tent for a significantly delayed appearance from Interpol’s Paul Banks and Sam Fogarino (they arrived an hour and a half late, cruising in on a golf cart), I trekked over to the main stage as Arctic Monkeys finished up their set. The band is certainly proof of the power of the Internet in creating rock stars, garnering huge cheers and massive sing-alongs. But they also prove that this phenomenon of Myspace-sparked overnight success strips away the traditional approach of attracting fans through an incredible live show; the Monkeys are damn boring. They delivered hits like “Fake Tales of San Francisco” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” but simply mirror the recorded versions and didn’t even take a stab at audience interaction. Yawn.
Following their set was Interpol, another band short on banter. It didn’t help that the sun was still in the sky when they hit the stage, killing the dark mystique that so wonderfully complements their live show. Kicking off with “Pioneer to the Falls” from their new album, Our Love to Admire, the band put out a solid set of tracks mixed between all three of their records. One uncharacteristically light moment came with a mis-start on “No I in Threesome,” when Banks bemusedly announced, “I don’t know where I am,” and brought the rest of the band to a halt before they tried again.
Yet the real treat of the day (and the weekend, as it later proved) was Bjork, in her return to the Islands following a gig there on her own in 2003. Supporting her latest effort, Volta, Bjork also brought with her an apparent love of flags, as the stage was draped in brightly coloured, mediaeval-style banners featuring various animals. Even her horn section/backup singers (one in the same, incredibly), dressed in solid-coloured jumpsuits, had flags protruding above their heads.
The singer herself bounded onto the stage with the explosion of confetti cannons, dancing emphatically in a frilly, multi-layered frock. Aside from the horn section, all musical support came from just three black-clad fellows, who moved between various electronic gadgets and other percussion instruments. Two big-screen TVs set up on the stage (and also projected on the larger, side-stage screens) gave close-up views of the electronic noodling.
The light show was also incredible, with huge bursts of red flames lighting up the stage during the very tribal “Earth Intruders.” During “Joga,” those who looked toward the back of the field were rewarded by the very neat effect of a green laser light sketching out random shapes and squiggles on the tree canopy.
Bjork herself is an amazing performer, engaging through the songs with endless energy and somewhat interpretive (without being silly) dancing, contrasted her cute, French thank-yous. With a set that also included “Army of Me,” “Hunter,” “Unravel,” “All is Full of Love,” and encore-closer “Declare Independence” (with its loudening cries of “Raise your flag! Higher, higher!”), it was certainly the highlight performance of the festival. Should Bjork return to Canada on her Volta tour, the show is not to be missed.
Still to come: our coverage of Virgin Festival Day Two, featuring Editors, The Killers, and Smashing Pumpkins.