Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Royal Canoe @ Biltmore -- 03/25/13

I don't think it's any exaggeration to say Royal Canoe is among my favourite live bands right now. They are constantly touring and seem to come through Vancouver every few months, which mean I've had the fortune of seeing them a few times in the last year and a half, and every time I do they continue to impress me.
(Also, how cool is that gig poster?)

Opening the night was Vancouver's Christopher Smith. I had seen him once before, but sandwiched between two great bands, and he kind of got lost in the shuffle, so I was interested in seeing him again. His dark and moody, yet lush alt-pop sound was pretty captivating, though a lot of the songs were kind of the same tempo.
There also wasn't much banter from Smith, but I later found out he was suffering from food poisoning, so even though that wasn't noticeable, it could have been the reason.
He did a cover of Fever Ray's "If I Had A Heart", and highlights of the set were the haunting "Pillars and Pyre" and the final song, I believe called "No Light Could Pass Though Me so I Have a Shadow", which built up to an intense ending; definitely the strongest song.
I have a feeling that Smith's music is the kind you appreciate more and more as you continue to listen to it, so I am looking forward to seeing him again after getting better acquainted with his most recent album, Earning Keep.

Soon after that, the six members of Royal Canoe took the stage with their assortment of instruments. With dual drummers -- one on a full kit and on on a drum pad and floor tom -- and as many keyboards and synth as they had members, it was actually the first time I had seem them where everything fit properly on stage.
They started the set with the insanely infectious "Show Me Your Eyes" off their most recent 7" Purple and Gold building dense and intricate wall-of-sound electro-pop that manages to be both complex and catchy. 
They sprinkled the set with a few new songs, building anticipation for the new album that they teased would be out late spring/early summer. The new songs sounded like a great progression of their sound, and I can't wait to hear how the new album sounds.

There were a few older songs in the set, too, including one song I never thought I would hear. It was the song that introduced me to to the band and hooked me, and one that I always lament (sometimes loudly) they never play live. But after the pestering of a certain blogger or two, they played it for the first (and likely last) time in a few years, "Kasparov", a ridiculously catchy love song between Garry Kasparov & Deep Blue with plenty of clever wordplay & chess puns.

They followed that up with "Bathtubs", a bombastic song with as many musical twists than some bands have in full albums, and another new tune, before finishing off with "Nightcrawlin'", a dark and lush song with the vocal processors on Matt Peters' voice giving it a deep and electronic, almost demonic, quality. And then they were of course back for an encore, with "Dear June" starting soft before bursting into a frantic ending, a great way to end the night.

Royal Canoe is one of the most interesting, most unique, and just flat out best live bands right now. They are incredibly tight and just full of energy, and never fail to impress. The last few times I've seen them, I've been with people who had not, and the reaction has been the same: "Wow!" 

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