Monday, April 29, 2013

Hannah Georgas with The Belle Game @ The Rio Theatre -- 04/26/13

It's been three years since the last time Hannah Georgas headlined her own show in Vancouver. Sure, the Ontario-born singer who now calls Vancouver home has played here plenty in the intervening time, but it's always been supporting someone else, part of a larger bill. But fresh off her recent Juno nominations -- and performance at the award ceremony -- Georgas returns home for a pair of sold out shows at the Rio Theatre, with The Belle Game along for the ride.

On the heels of the release of their debut LP, Ritual Tradition Habit, Vancouver's The Belle Game started off the night with their rich and lush indie pop. The six piece launched right in to the first song on the album, the haunting "Ritual" before getting shoulders shimmying to "Wasted Light".

Their sound went from the upbeat and bouncy "Keeps Me Up At Night" to the sexy slow-jam of "Bruised to Ash", with Andrea Lo's powerful vocals being the focal point -- which was never more apparent than on "River", the small singer's voice filling the room. They wrapped up the set with "Sleep To Grow" and "Wait Up For You", both of which building to explosive endings, the fantastic guitar work of both Adam Nanji and Alex Andrew on display.

While the sound was a bit bass-heavy at the start, it evened out a couple songs in, and the band proved why they fit right in at a place like the Rio; their grand sound fits the theatre venue nicely, and I can't wait for the day they play a somewhere like the Vogue.

Ritual, Wasted Light, Keeps Me Up At Night, Blame Fiction, Bruised to Ash, River, Sleep to Grow, Wait Up For You.

Then, with throbbing bass and pulsing lights, Hannah Georgas took the stage with her backing band, starting off with "Elephant", the first track on her newest, self titled album. The set continued to focus on the new album, the poppy-rocker "Robotic" and the acerbic, unrequited-love-song "Somebody", leading into a cover of Jesus & Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" -- though the vocals seemed a little low for just that song, Hannah's voice getting drowned out.

Midway through the set the band took a break and Hannah performed "The Beat Stuff" on her own, just her gorgeous voice and a guitar, before she was rejoined not only by the band, but also a surprise guest, Ryan Guldemond from Mother Mother out to do backup vocals on "Fantasize"

After a few more, including the super upbeat and danceable "Shortie", Hannah ended off the set with the heartfelt "Ode to Mom", and the last song on the album, "Waiting Game", with another guest out for backup vocals, this time rapper Shad.

But of course, there was the encore as Hannah came out alone and took a seat behind the keys for the absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking "Shine" before she was joined by the band for "All I Need", a perfect song to wrap up the night with, starting soft and building to an intense grand finale.

With a great stage presence -- Hannah chatted and joked throughout the set -- and a fantastic voice backing up her gritty songs, "Gorgeous" Hannah Georgas put on one hell of a show, captivating the sold out theatre. She's come a long way since the first time I saw her, at the intimate St. James Hall, and it won't be long before she's selling out bigger and bigger venues. I just hope that we won't have to wait another three years for the next headlining show!

Elephant, Enemies, Robotic, Somebody, Just Like Honey [Jesus & Mary Chain cover], Thick Skin, Chit Chat, Lover's Breakdown, The Beat Stuff, Fantasize, Deep End, What You Do To Me, Shortie, Millions, Dancefloor, The National, Ode to Mom, Waiting Game.
(encore) Shine, All I Need.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sidney York @ Media Club -- 04/12/13

Hot off the heels of showcases at both SXSW and CMW, and wrapping up work on a new album, Sidney York stopped by the Media Club for a preview of their new material. The album isn't due out until the summer, but they teased us with almost the entire new album.

Starting off the night was Jamison Troy, the Vancouver singer songwriter taking the stage armed with an acoustic guitar in hand, and joined by Nick Russell on electric guitar. His songs were all very earnest, his smooth voice conveying personal songs, full of emotion. But there also wasn't much variation from one song to the next.
It was a solid set, and I would see him again -- especially as he continues to grow as an artist -- but wouldn't necessarily seek out more.

Next up was Seattle pop-rock band, New Heights. They had a soaring sound, with a decent voice from lead singer Travis Graham, but they didn't have much stage presence, even when they tried to awkwardly joke with an increasingly disinterested crowd. They weren't really all that bad -- aside from flubbing the opening of a song and starting over -- but overall, the set was pretty inoffensive and forgettable.

It wasn't long after that Sidney York took the stage. Brandi Sidoryk & Krista Wodelet -- a pair of classically trained musicians who make the core of the alt-pop band --  were backed by Neil Dorin on bass, Devon Lougheed on guitar, and Luke Cyca on drums. Both multi-instrumentalists, Brandi on vocals and keys also pulled out a guitar, ukulele, and french horn for different songs, and bassoonist Krista helped out with vocals and dabbled on keys, synth and ukulele. And they were both bounding with energy; Krista bubbled over with enthusiasm, and the only times Brandi stood still was when she was behind the keyboard, and sometimes not even then.

They kicking off the set with the title track, "Hearts", and after a few favourites, like the infinitely catchy "Dick & Jane" getting everyone clapping and along, they went into the bulk of the new album. Ranging from the soft and lovely "Let The Sparks Fly" to the frantic, almost punk-tinged "The Lion. The Tiger. The Bear.", the new songs had an undeniable edge and depth to them.

A song about our love affair with technology, "Electrolove", was the catchiest of the set and bound to be a hit single, and they ended with two songs that turned out to be my favourites of the set; first a swirling and chaotic song called "I Could Swim", with some fantastic drumming from Luke, and one that I hope is called "Weapons Grade Love" called "Watch Your Back", with great overlapping vocals from Brandi & Krista.

Regular readers (all 17 of you) will know that I've always liked the band, but this was the best I've seen them live; maybe they were invigorated from wrapping up a short tour, or maybe they were excited for playing the new material, but everything was so tight and energetic. If the album is even half as good as the live interpretations, it's definitely going to be an album to look out for.

Hearts, Mile High Love, Dick & Jane, Math & Fractions, Let The Sparks Fly, The Lion. The Tiger. The Bear., Electrolove, I Could Swim, Weapon's Grade Love Watch Your Back.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ Vogue Theatre -- 04/06/13

Twenty years. That's how long it's been since Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have been to Vancouver for a show. And for ten of those years, I have been a fan. In fact, they are one of my all time favourite bands, so not having seen them live was a top of the proverbial must-see-list. Sure, Grinderman was here a couple years ago, but even though the side project featured Cave with Bad Seeds Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey, and Jim Sclavunos, it was just not quite the same.
But after years of waiting, they finally returned to Vancouver touring the new album, Push The Sky Away, for a show at the Vogue Theatre. And to say I was exited would be a vast understatement (if you follow me on the twitters, you know how obnoxiously eager I was for it).

I was also excited for the opening act, Toronto's Basia Bulat. On the surface, the folky singer/songwriter may have been an odd choice to open, but from what I saw of her, she rose to the occasion.
Sadly, I missed about half of her set -- the Vogue was doing a new thing where all the tickets were held at will call, which is a great idea to crack down on scalpers, but it caused a bit of a lineup getting in.
I caught the last three songs, and with just Basia & with her autoharp on stage, her powerful voice and rollicking songs like "Heart of My Own" winning over the crowd.
She teased a new album with her last song, swapping her autoharp for an acoustic guitar, and playing the title track to the album due out in the fall. Hopefully that means she'll be back before long, since her set (or what I caught of it) was much too short.

Then, after much anticipation, the lights went down at 9 sharp and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds came out one by one, Cave last, kicking off with a few songs from the new album. The melodic "We No Who U R" starting things off soft, and the tempo stayed the same for the beginning of "Jubilee Street", before it exploded with energy by the end.

Cave is possibly the most charismatic frontman I have ever seen perform. When he wasn't behind the piano -- which was most of the set -- he was stalking the front of the stage, back and forth like a sinister preacher. Frequently perched at the edge of the stage, he would lean in, grab people's hands, sing directly to them; he was even offered up a harmonica necklace by one fan right up front, which he not only took and wore, but played for the intro of a song.

But of course passion alone does not necessarily make a show great, and they definitely had the music -- and musicians -- to back it up. Jim Sclavunos was a monster on drums, and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis was brilliant as always. The setlist spanned the band's entire career, going all the way back to their first album from 1984 with the title track to From Her To Eternity and many song in-between. It was also as diverse as the band's repertoire, from the beautiful "Love Letter" to the sinister "Red Right Hand" to the all out rocker "Deanna".

The two songs that most highlighted the extremes were also two of the highlights of the set. While Cave was at the piano, he asked for requests and after a cacophony of song titles, he went with the absolutely gorgeous, beautiful, and heartbreaking "Into My Arms", and a few songs later, he ended the main set with the frantic "Stagger Lee", a murderous ballad with Cave graphically pantomiming the sex & violence in the song's narrative with wild abandon.

After thunderous applause, they were of course back out for an encore of a couple songs, another old song "Tupelo", and the title track from the new album Push The Sky Away, leaving us with the fitting line "Some people say it's just rock 'n' roll / Ah, but it gets you right down to your soul"

There is a reason Nick Cave is legendary, and he more than proved it at the Vogue. I have seen bands half the age of Cave with much, much less energy. He worked the crowd like no other, and even though the set was nearly two hours, I still didn't want it to be over.

This wasn't just the show of the year, it was the show of a lifetime.

We No Who U R; Jubilee Street; Wide Lovely Eyes; Higgs Boson Blues; From Her To Eternity; Red Right Hand; Stranger than Kindness; Deanna; Jack the Ripper; Papa Won't Leave You, Henry; Love Letter; Into My Arms; Weeping Song; The Mercy Seat; Stagger Lee.
(encore) Tupalo; Push the Sky Away.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Stars w/ Said The Whale @ Commodore -- 04/06/13

It seems like it's been a while since I saw Stars headline a show of their own, and they were back in Vancouver for a pair of shows -- one afternoon all ages show, and an evening 19+ -- with the themes Sex & Death to celebrate the release of their latest album, The North.
And as they wrapped up the tour, they added Vancouver favourites as the opening act, making it quite a nice double bill.

Due to some vehicular problems, I missed about half of Said the Whale's opening set, coming in right at the crescendo of "Big Sky MT".
The indie-pop five pieced was glad to be in front of the hometown crowd, full of energy and getting the enthusiastic crowd clapping along to "This City's a Mess". They also played some new songs, including one that I was quite fond of, a fast paced rocker to end off the set with a bang.

Dressed with a twinge of 80s fashion, Stars took the stage to a disco song before launching into the first track off their new album The North, "The Theory of Relativity".

What I love about watching the band live is their intensity. Especially Amy, with her beautiful voice and great energy (even throwing in a few rock star high kicks), but especially Torquil, who is just as intense when he is singing as when he is simply playing the tambourine (I thought he was going to split his hand open with the ferocity he was playing it), and the raw emotion he pours into every song.

Their set was filled with songs old and new, from the beautiful "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It" to the anthemic "Take Me To The Riot", with Campbell getting the crowd jumping, bouncing the Commodore's floor, and one of my favourite songs, the heart breaking yet gorgeous "Your Ex-Lover is Dead", actually giving me chills as Campbell and Millan harmonized, with the swelling of the music.

They bookended the set with "Walls", the last song off The North, before coming back out for one last song, "Calendar", another excellent example of Amy Millan's gorgeous voice, and each band member leaving the stage one by one, leaving Pat McGee to finish off on the drums.

I've had the privilege of seeing Stars a few times, and they always impress me with their grandiose live shows. Hopefully it won't be another two or three years before they return.