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concert review: margaret cho @ salle wilfrid-pelletier, oct. 23

posted by jroselkim

On Saturday night, Margaret Cho stopped by Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Montreal, as part of her new tour, Cho Dependent, delighting the crowd with her dynamic delivery and dirty jokes.

Brooklyn-based comic John Roberts opened the show – frankly, this was the only part of the show I did not love. His “routine” didn’t exactly contain a “routine” at all – but rather, a series of wigs and caricatures, including a vapid blond girl, his mother, a “granola” lesbian at a women’s fest, and a straight male actor on cop shows. While some characters were hilarious – the granola lesbian writing a poem about her vagina got many laughs – his dependence on the wigs to transform from one character to another felt a bit hollow and lacking substance.

Since the tour was named after her new album, I expected to see a bit more of musical content. However, the show featured classic stand-up material, with only three songs performed live. Though her comedy has gotten more political over the years, last night’s show felt more like classic Cho, save for the part when she discussed gay teen suicides and Prop 8. For those of you unfamiliar with Cho’s comedy, “classic Cho” is a blend of three things: sex, shit, and her mother.

Shit dominated the beginning of Cho’s routine, as she confessed the undesirable side effects of guzzling olive oil before her performances to enhance her vocal chops: spraying olive oil everywhere through the rear. Cho took this disgustingly funny bit to the next level by musing that she could now work at Olive Garden (“would you like some dressing with that salad? At Olive Garden, we’re family.”). Later on, Cho recalled the opposite problem of being unable to pass anything through her rectum as she reminisced about her recent adventures at Bonnaroo music festival, where the port-a-potty ubiquity prevented her from normal shits, and the inevitable reality of giving up and “merging” one’s shit with others.

Nothing was off-limits or too dirty for Cho, as I heard about balls slapping hard on your neck (after all the discussion of shit), to putting a penis and balls in your mouth at the same time, and describing her pussy as the “Hurt Locker” because it’s been around so much.

There were also oddly sobering moments full of pathos, like when Cho shared the chilling fact about her ex-lover bludgeoning his wife to death. Cho also revealed that this was the inspiration for her song “Sorry,” which she performed live for the audience afterwards. This was the only song she performed from Cho Dependent on Saturday night.

I admit, I was curious about the quality of her live singing voice; her voice sounds pretty much perfect on the record that I wondered if she could replicate the same quality onstage. I’m happy to report that her singing was pretty great live. She even picked up the guitar that was sitting onstage all night for her encore – an untitled song (not a part of her album) about being in a long-term relationship and having no sexual desire (“I hate fucking you, baby”).

And of course, Cho’s mom made ample appearances this time around, from being amazed at her daughter’s ability to “move so fast” on rehearsing for Dancing with the Stars, and a performance of “My Puss” (along with John Roberts’s “mom”) in a flashy bomber jacket.

Part of Cho’s comedic genius is her commitment to the disgusting nature of her material, including the kind of incredible (and incredibly ugly) faces she makes, such as a quadruple chin she donned as her “mother.” These are some moments that are more magical when you see them live. If there’s one person that transforms disgusting into magical, it’s Cho.

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cd review: cho dependent by margaret cho

posted by jroselkim

The first time I listened to Margaret Cho’s stand-up performance, I was taken by the careful and deliberate pace, as well as the meaningful pauses that gave you time to think about the inequalities and the wrongful assumptions we often make in our society. (For a great example of her deliberateness, check out the clip of “Asian Chicken Salad” posted below) Given her style, then, it’s no surprise that her new album Cho Dependent not only focuses on comedy, but also musical craftsmanship itself.

The roster of collaborators includes an impressive number of indie musical darlings: Andrew Bird, Rachel Yagamata and Ani DiFranco as well as veteran Canuck musical heavyweights like Tegan and Sara, Carl Newman (New Pornographers) and Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene). There’s even a throw-back to the (naughty) past, as Kevin Chong (yes, that Chong of Cheech & Chong fame) makes an appearance in an aptly titled track, “Calling In Stoned”.

I admit, the pure joy and fun of hearing many of the indie stars’ voices in one album took most of my attention away in the first listen of the album. But Cho doesn’t let the guests outshine her. Staying true to her comic sensibility, Cho doessn’t shy away from taboo topics, including funny zingers about reality TV shows delighting in people’s addictions (“It’s not your birthday but all your friend and family are there” – “Intervention”), extreme stalking gone wrong (“I’m sorry I killed you dear / I only wanted you to be near”- “I’m Sorry”), smoking pot, and of course, dicks.

It doesn’t hurt to have an all-star backup, but Cho’s vocal chops can definitely hold their own. She can hit the high notes as well as add texture and strength like a front-lining vocalist should in songs like “Eat Shit and Die”.

Cho Dependent is not only rich in comedic gems but some serious musical talent and what we could call good music – catchy melodies and snappy, witty lyrics. In the press release announcing the new album, Cho describes her inspiration for the album, where she wanted to create and contribute to a genre of music that is “hilarious but also seriously good.”She’s succeeded and some more, I’d say.

She’s also going on tour to promote her new album, with stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Let’s go give her some love, invazn!

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