It seemed like the universe was against Paper Lions playing Saturday night at the Media Club. Three quarters of the PEI band had to make the drive from Edmonton to Vancouver the day of the show -- lead singer John McPhee had arrived early by plane -- and while they left Alberta with plenty of time, blizzard conditions, traffic accidents, highway reroutes, and Vancouver's infamous year-round 24/7 road construction caused them more than a little grief getting to their headlining set at the sold out Media Club.
In fact, their co-headliner, Jordan Klassen almost ran into the same problems, only arriving at the venue when the opening act was supposed to go on. A quick line check delayed the show by a little while, before Emilie Mover took the stage alone for her opening set. She had kind of a jazzy vibe, and her set included a couple covers, including a Townes Van Zandt song, and one in French which was probably the best song of the set. I feel she would have been a lot better with a full band behind her, but with just her, it wasn't necessarily bad, just not very memorable.
After a little bit of stalling, and some more quick sound checking, Jordan Klassen was up next with his newly slimmed down band. Now a four piece, the band consists of old members Jocelyn Price on keys & backup vocals and Simon Bridgefoot on drums, as well as newcomer Mike Noble. They managed to capture most of the same scope of the larger band, and had just as much energy. Especially Jordan, who is always bounding around the stage while switching from guitar to banjo to ukulele.
With a set featuring songs off his recently released Repentance album, Klassen started with "Call and Answer", starting quiet and growing to a rambunctious ending. His rich folk-pop ran from the big and intense "The Scribe of Doorposts" to the much quieter "Goodhart's Law" which almost got the Media Club silent (no easy task).
He wrapped up the set with the whistley "Go To Me", another song that builds to a big ending, and the more mellow "You Are The Branches"
Call and Answer, Anatomical Literacy, Ranchero, Balcony, Strengthen Me With Raisins, The Horses Are Stuck, The Scribe of Doorposts, Piano Brother, Goodhart's Law, Sweet Chariot, Go To Me, You Are The Branches.
At this point in the night, the remaining Paper Lions were still a little over a hundred kilometres away, but since John was there and ready to go, he took the stage for a short solo acoustic set. Explaining the situation, he started with a song about their previous tour van's unfortunate run-in with a moose, and played a really strong set. Keeping it loose, John told stories between songs, and getting everyone to sing along to his acoustic jams, including a nice cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill".
Had worse come to worst, that would have been a pretty good show, but not long after John finished, the rest of the band showed up from their 16 hour drive, and immediately set up & started their set -- hitting the stage at 12:30, two hours after their scheduled time.
The stunning harmonies of "Philadelphia" kicked off the set as they channelled all their pent up energy and frustration into high energy rockers like "Don't Touch That Dial" and "Sweat it Out", the chorus proclaiming "I'll sweat it out from 9 to 5, to sweat it out on Friday night". The set spanned from new and old, from the ridiculously catchy "Pull me In" off of the new album My Friends, to the explosive "Strawberry Man" that goes all the way back to when they were known as the Chucky Danger Band.
They got everyone singing once more for "Little Liar" and "Lost The War", and wrapped up the set with "My Friend", John jumping into the crowd to tell individual members of the remaining audience "I know you are my friend".
Despite that it was almost 1:30 when they wrapped up, the crowd still clamoured for more, and they obliged with one last song, "Sandcastles" for an energetic and emotional ending to a long day.
The potential for disaster was all there, and I would not have blamed the band at all if they had just decided on a shorter set. But the fact that immediately after driving for 16 hours, they put on a top notch set was incredibly impressive.
John solo: The Night That We Survived, Polly Hill, Solsbury Hill [Peter Gabriel cover], Ghostwriters, Trouble, I'm On Fire, Travelling.
Band: Philadelphia, Don't Touch That Dial, Sweat It Out, Pull Me In, The Sheriff, Bodies in the Winter, Little Liar, Strawberry Man, Stay Here For A While, Travelling, Lost The War, My Friend.