Death Cab for Cutie
Youth Group was the perfect opener for DCFC because both bands take things slow without being boring. Making their Vancouver debut, Youth Group had a very melodic and clean-cut sound. Most of the set was pretty mellow except for the upbeat “Someone Else’s Dream” and poppy “Underpass”. They’re all about the details, these guys, not your simple three-chord fare. “Drowned” featured great slide guitar and while “Shadowland” had lovely guitar picking. One of the memorable songs was “See Saw” with its awesome long intro and outro. The attention-getter of the group had to be the drummer, Danny Allen. Very dynamic on the skins, he overpowered the rest of the band a bit but gave the songs much needed energy. The band played it safe, but it took a while to get the majority of the room’s attention.
This will probably be the last time fans will get to see DCFC in a small venue. The new album, Plans, was on full display tonight, starting with “Marching Bands
of Manhattan” and the current single, “Soul Meets Body”. Ben Gibbard’s soft vocals must be a blessing and a curse ‘cause tonight it was hard to hear him
clearly through the entire set. The band let the audience do their best emoraoke, with older material like “Army Corp of Architects” and the catchy steady beat of “Title and Registration”. The catchy upbeat chorus of “The Sound of Settling” got some major pogo action on the floor. These songs weren’t given any new treatment but the crowd still loved it.
The band seemed more into jamming and rocking out than interacting with the crowd…but to a certain point. When Gibbard was delivering his raspy bittersweet tones in “Expo 86”, (how appropriate for tonight) he forgot the lyrics and had to get the audience to fill in the blank. Also, the response was crazy when he mentioned Calgary in one of the newer songs. For their encore, they played the melancholy “Tiny Vessels” with a heavier alt-rock fuzzed middle, and the massive sing-along “Transatlanticism” that ended with a grand wall of sound. Another sweet moment was when Gibbard came out alone with an acoustic guitar and sang the simple but moving, “I Will Follow You into the Dark”, and to his surprise, everyone already knew the words. No campfire session could come close to this. It’s a testament to how devoted DCFC fans are. I pledge allegiance to the band…
People unaware that the Arcade Fire shares members with one of this tour’s opening bands were surprised at the familiar faces in the Bell Orchestre. The wintry post-rockers’ strings and horns gave off Do Make Say Think and Dirty Three vibes, but more stripped-down
and humble—they trod their territory well, but didn’t often venture outside it. Even if they could have been a bit more dynamic and interesting, maintained most of the crowd’s interest.
Sub Pop buzz band Wolf Parade (Isaac Brock-approved!) just barely arrived in time to set up their gear, thanks to a traffic accident on the way. The lack of sound check left the sound mix a muddy mess that gradually improved. Still, these lycanthropes from Montreal bit into track after punchy track, channeling the spirit of Modest Mouse into heavy guitars, frenetic keyboards, and drunken howls (at the moon!).
As expected, the venue was packed full of hipsters and youngsters eager and excited for the stars of the show. And as expected, the eight musicians carefully constructed an overwhelming roar of melodrama and pomp, with as many layers and textures as their accompanying light show. What occurred to me as I watched and listened was that many Arcade Fire songs are, essentially, dance music, based as they are on the importance of the steady background beat driving everything forward (where would songs like “Neighbourhood #3” be without that rhythmic stomp?).
That’s what brought so much excitement to this show, with everyone carried away by the booming march of “Rebellion (Lies)”, “Neighbourhood #2”, and all the other songs we all knew so well. Adding to that were the myriad of sing-along chants and choruses, when eight people plus a few thousand more
shouted “lies, lies” or “ooh-ooooh-ooh” with almost holy devotion. Meanwhile, any band members with free hands fl ailed about and created joyful mayhem in the Forum, and Win Butler even smashed his guitar mid-set! The completely unexpected New Order cover (“Age of Consent”) as the second encore capped it all off with style to spare. With an end like that, this band and this night couldn’t do anything but fulfill everyone’s expectations.
The Hold Steady
Richard’s on Richards
As I settled in on the balcony of Richards on Richards to swill some beer, take in The Hold Steady and do some crowd watching, lead singer Craig Finn
inexplicably declared “Everyone’s a critic, but most people are DJs!” As I let this comment sink in, I looked around the room, noticing some strange and
incongruous behaviour: from the fist-pumping jocks in the crowd to the spastic, dissonant keyboard stabs of the mustached ivory tickler Franz Nickolay,
there was something strange in the air. While my theory is that early shows are a kind of limbo between working and partying that leaves people unsure of
how to conduct themselves, it could also be that Finn’s deranged ramblings created a metaphysical disturbance in the audience. Lurching around the
stage and coating the crowd with a fine salivary mist, Finn appeared to have been granted powers beyond that of the ordinary rock n’ roll singer. Although
the lyrics were largely unintelligible, I knew the force of what was being said from the albums, and it was a joy to see the words born live.
The actual music was pretty good too; while at times it strayed into typical bar-rock fare, the epic trashy guitar solos of Tad Kubler on top of a pounding
rhythm section had me doing a little fist-pumping of my own. The band played through songs from their two albums with total conviction, wailing hard in the
Wayne’s World musical tradition. Despite the flaunting of hard rock conventions, little things like discernible melodies or predictable song structures were noticeably absent. With a less talented band this rambling aesthetic would quickly grow boring and abrasive, but the tight interplay between each musician kept the set from descending into chaotic amateur hour. By the time they were done their energetic and about the earliness of the hour were completely forgotten.
As soon as The Constantines began pounding out the syncopated beat to “Draw Us Lines” with the help of keyboardist Will Kidman on an extra bass drum, I took my pint downstairs and immersed myself in the writhing proletariat mass. Sure, most of us were either students or comfortably middle class, but something about this band from the industrial wasteland of Ontario mobilized our every(wo)man fervour. Fists were raised in rock n’ roll solidarity, held up straight in recognition of something pure and defiant at the core of this music. When vocalist Bry Webb strained his overworked larynx to belt out the chorus to “Working Full Time”, the crowd unabashedly screamed along. There were no disco beats to be found, and no keyboards drenched in sunbeams. Instead there was Steve Lambke wielding his guitar like a weapon, crushing our heads with his dense, mid-range riffing. Looking absolutely filthy in an acid-washed
denim vest, bassist Dallas Wehrle stoically worked the low end, grabbing the mic only to declare that we were witnessing the “Shotgunning Beers Tour”. After an incredibly high-energy set, highlighted by an extended rock-out on “Shine a Light”, the band retreated backstage, no doubt hoping to shotgun a beer or
two. They quickly returned in response to the crowd’s plaintive cries, and we were treated to a raucous encore, culminating in a bluesy cover of AC/
DC’s “Ride On”. Sweating, ears ringing, I stumbled out into the street, only to realize that it was only ten o’clock; my rock n’ roll glass slippers were good for a couple more hours.