At a sold-out Wednesday night show, whilst a snowstorm swirled outside, it was obvious just how much frontman Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother enjoys the drama associated with a perceived apocalypse. Forces both natural and amplified came together in theatrical tension on the Orpheum stage, beginning with a foreboding opener (and new album title) “The Sticks.”
“I’m getting on a mountain, baby / I’m thinking of an island, maybe,” Ryan smirked, a likely reference to his native Quadra Island. “I’ll be gone for good / Out there with the creatures in the woods.” Two days before our supposed Mayan-predicted end, the show had great timing both as a holiday homecoming and potential Last Show Ever. It didn’t hurt that the band’s latest album is chock full of sugar-pop odes to endtimes.
The set was riddled with this ever-more-syrupy new material, from the airtight three-part harmonies of “Infinitesimal” to the hooky four-on-the-floor single “Bit by Bit.” Quizzically, in the context of these streamlined wall-of-sound compositions, older oddities like “Verbatim” — from their debut Touch Up — didn’t quite fit with the flash and awe of their fourth record.
This cognitive clash may have something to do with changing stage size: the last time this reviewer saw Hannah Georgas and Mother Mother together, they played UBC’s Pit Pub in 2009. Having upgraded through the Commodore and Vogue to the prestigious Orpheum Theatre marks a noteworthy induction into Canadian indie rock royalty — and a concentrated break from looser, tangential beginnings.
Mother Mother’s patented choral arrangements took centre stage, executed with charming precision. The singing prowess of Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin burst through in fleeting moments, though more often manifested as banter in a kindergarten register. Rhythm section Ali Siadat and Jeremy Page invoked the pressure of the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa and the whimsy of the Flaming Lips’ later albums.
Molly teased the crowd with an extended, proggy intro to “Hayloft,” allowing nerves to skitter before a familiar delirium of synths raced in. Darker, hurried sounds seemed more resonant under the aggressive strobes and spotlights. Balladry fell flat, while every word from the 2011 single “The Stand” was blissfully eaten up with a spoon; “Everyone’s fucked and they don’t even know,” the crowd echoed.
Hometown opener Hannah Georgas returned for a collaborative encore. Her airy, understated presence was a nice counterpoint to Molly’s slick delivery — her own set an endearing collection of deliberate pop. The encore’s varied sonic textures pitched the fevered feeling of a variety show, from the squawky tenor saxophone solo on “Love it Dissipates” to the finger-picked banjo folk on closer “Wrecking Ball.”
Since the world didn’t actually end, let’s hope Mother Mother return from the woods with new material in 2013.