Pointed Sticks guitarist Bill Napier-Hemy plays with the effortless grace of a Zen master turned guitar teacher. Joe Keithley, in the audience for the band’s evening show, says “He’s kinda like Billy Zoom that way, where he’s in control of the guitar and he just plays and smiles, rather than tryin’ to force it and jump around and wave the neck in the air. But he was always really good, and he hasn’t lost a step at all. They were great.” Napier-Hemy wore a button-down striped shirt during both the afternoon and evening shows. I watched carefully to see if he would change the shirt between sets, but there was no need: he didn’t break a sweat. He even sang a verse of “The Marching Song” (Nick Jones, gesturing: “He sings!”); he last performed that in Vancouver with Sticks’ bassist Tony Bardach at the Vancouver Complication gig, the closest this town has come, before January 6th, to seeing the Sticks onstage in 25 years. He told me afterward that the show was a surprising amount of fun to play, and that he was delighted to see young people in the audience who knew the songs. When I spoke to members of the band in the summer after their Japanese tour, they were tentative about whether there would even be a Vancouver show. Now they’re confirmed for the March 31st Radio Heartbeat Power Pop Festival in New York, and are considering other shows on the way. I would say that’s a fair indication that they’re having fun. It certainly looked that way. Nick Jones really warmed to the audience’s enthusiasm the second show, stripping off his outwear and inviting them to sing along. He had been just a little more reserved during the afternoon’s all-ages gig, offering abundant thank-yous between songs to family and friends (and Bill’s music students, and three generations of clan Montgomery) in attendance. My favourite of these was his ironic thank you to CFOX and CKLG for all their past support.
Ian Tiles, the band’s pre-Dimwit, pre-Robert “Rubber Boot” Bruce drummer, hit hard and fast during both shows. Dale Wiese of Noize to Go, a longtime friend of the Sticks, engaged in between-show patter with me about the sheer power of Ian’s drumming. It was like Ian was channelling the much-missed Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery; the night ended with “We Love You, Dimwit!” messages flashing on a screen behind the stage. Tony brought his psychopath’s hat out for both sets. Gord Nicholl rocked his keyboard both figuratively and literally, leaning in to the songs, the best of which (“Out of Luck” and “The Marching Song”) were saved for an encore. The second encore, at the end of the night, was the Sonics’ “The Witch” and an Abba song the band has a history with, “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” Seldom do bands get to write a final, triumphant chapter so late in their history—though it remains to be seen just how long this final chapter will be.