Monday, April 30, 2012

Yukon Blonde & Library Voices @ Commodore -- 04/27/12

This was a show I was looking forward to for a while. Two of my favourite bands to watch live teaming up for a cross Canada tour, with the final night being the homecoming show for Yukon Blonde.
And I fully admit, while Yukon Blonde was the headliner, I was just as -- if not more -- excited to see Library Voices again.

First up, though, was Great Bloomers from Toronto. I had seen them once before (coincidentally, also sharing the stage with Yukon Blonde) and I was interested to see them again. The five-piece hit the stage with a slow build up before launching into their upbeat rock, with a little twinge of folk. They were pretty straightforward, but they had a great stage presence and a solid sound. Highlights of the set were the catchy "The Young Ones Slept" and a pair I didn't catch the name of, which they ended the set with; the first one started soft and built to a great climax, and the final song a straight up rocker.
Really enjoyable, and a great opening act for a show where the first band could have been easily overshadowed and forgotten about. I definitely look forward to seeing them again next time they're through town.

Next up was Regina's own Library Voices. When I had seen them before, it was always at smaller venues with the seven members of the band crowding on stage, so it was great seeing them make use of the the large space of the Commodore. Bassist Eoin Hickey-Cameron was never in one place for more than five seconds, Paul Gutheil tossed and twirled his saxophone, and during one of the later songs, "Kundra On The Dance Floor", singer Carl Johnson put down his guitar and was dancing precariously on the edge of the stage, and even singing while upside down, on his head at one point. To say nothing of the rest of the band, who all matched the energy to make one of the most entertainingly energetic live shows.

But of course, it wasn't just the energy; they packed the too-short-set with music that is aptly described as "Pop as fuck!". Insanely catchy with smart and clever lyrics, song like "Be My Juliette Gréco, Paris 1949" laments of a time "Before Photoshopped hips and collagen smiles / When longing meant more than a drunk dial" and their literary love was pretty clear in "Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers".
Tearing through the songs with fantastic precision, they brought the set to an explosive ending with the packed ballroom floor singing and, naturally, clapping along to "Generation Handclap" and yelling along with "Step Off The Map and Float", which saw a couple members of The Great Bloomers and Yukon Blonde joining them. My only complaint about the set was that it seemed far too short, but then again, I could watch Library Voices play all night. They are, without a doubt, one of the most fun bands to watch live.
Oh, and one of the instruments in Michael Dawson's arsenal is a theremin. How can you not love a band that so expertly integrates a theremin into their sound?

setlist
If Raymond Carver Were Born In The 90s; Write Me A Myth; Traveller's Digest; Be My Juliette Gréco, Paris 1949; Party Like It's 2012; Haunt This House; My, Myself, and ID; Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers; Kundera On The Dance Floor; Generation Handclap; Step Off The Map and Float.

I don't envy any band that has to take the stage after Library Voices, but if anyone can, it's Yukon Blonde, the four core members were joined by Matt Kelly to round out their sound with an additional guitar and keys. There was a bit of a nervous energy at first, with the show not only being their homecoming show, but their first time headlining the Commodore -- Jeff Innes was visibly in awe more than once looking out into the packed room -- but the any nerves quickly subsided as they launched into their set (which included some family members, including Grandmothers, front and centre).

They kicked off the set with the first two songs from the new album, Tiger Talk, "My Girl" and "Radio" -- a song that immediately became, and remains, my favourite my favourite song of theirs the first time I heard it -- and didn't look back as their spot on harmonies and amazing energy, especially from Innes and Brandon Scott, carried the rest of the set, from the unbridled "Breathing Tigers" and "Iron Fist" to the more subdued "Guns" and "1000 Years".
After the explosive "Stairway", they were back out for the encore, first "Wind Blows" before inviting members of both Great Bloomers and Library Voices out for  a massive, end-of-the-tour songalong to the final song of the night, "Fire". As the stage filled, Jeff and Brandon even parted with their guitars for members of the other bands to take over, and Scott even leaped off the stage to crowd surf.

The one thing that the bands had in common, especially Library Voices and Yukon Blonde was their pure excitement. They were probably more thrilled to be there than the crowd was, and that energy more than shone through. Few things make a live show better than looking up at the musicians and seeing that joy on their faces.

setlist (incomplete, as there were a couple songs I missed the names of)
My Girl; Radio; Brides Song; Iron Fist; [New song]; Sweet Dee; Rather Be With You; 1000 Years; Breathing Tigers; Guns; Babies Don't Like Blue Anymore; Stairway; [mystery song].
(encore) Wind Blows; Fire.

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