Sunday, December 29, 2013

Said the Whale @ Commodore -- 12/28/13

You can't accuse Said the Whale of not being one of the hardest working bands in Canada. They released their latest album, hawaiii, about a year and a half after the previous Little Mountain, and they have been almost constantly touring; criss-crossing Canada, down into the States, and even overseas.
But to wrap up their 2013, they have come back to Vancouver for a pair of hometown shows; an afternoon all ages show, and an evening 19+ (which I caught).

With them, they had a band that highly influenced them, By Divine Right to open the show. While I had seen the band once before, I mostly knew them more based on their legacy and reputation than their music, and the Toronto three piece definitely lived up to that.
The band lineup has rotated a lot throughout their twenty-plus years -- including musicians like Brendan Canning, Leslie Feist, and Brian Borcherdt -- and joining frontman José Miguel Contreras in their current lineup was drummer Geordie Dynes, and Alysha Haugen on bass.
Highlights from their set included the simple yet catchy "The Slap" and "Past The Stars", the first song from new album, Organized Accidents, introduced as about space aliens. Contreras swapped to an acoustic guitar for "Mutant Message", and got the crowd really going with their biggest hit, "Five Bucks". After jokingly ringing in the new year early, they ended with "Stella Ocean Heart"
They put on a strong set, and it's easy to see why they have had such longevity.

Soon enough, the lights dimmed and LCD Soundsystem's Home (appropriately enough) blasted throughout the venue as Said the Whale took the stage. The song ended and they launched into "More Than This", the soft song was a little anticlimactic after that introduction, but then quickly exploded into "Mother" promising "maybe I should fuck something up good".

They kept up the energy for the first few songs, hitting "Camillo (The Magician)" early on, the crowd singing along, not for the last time. Judging by the volume the crowd hit joining in on songs like the beautiful "Curse the Currents" (Ben goading the crowd to sing louder and louder) and "Emerald Lake, AB" and the way the dancefloor was bouncing, the audience was almost as excited to be there as the band was; more than once, the members of the band proclaimed their love and gratitude towards the fans, with big grins on their faces, visibly stoked to be headlining the Commodore.

Highlights from the set included my favourite new track off of hawaiii, "Resolution" which ended with an incredibly energetic Shad joining the band on stage to perform his portion of the song, and one of my favourite Said the Whale tracks overall, "My Government Heart", the stage bathed in red lights as Tyler vitriolically spat out the lyrics.
They also pulled out a deep-cut cover, Father John Misty's "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings", and Tyler got very emotional when he went into "Helpless Son", a song written for his mother, a cancer survivor, who was in the crowd and hearing the song performed live for the first time.

"I Love You" wrapped up the main set with a huge energy, but of course they were back for the obligatory encore; a few more songs before wrapping up with the perfect set-ender, "Goodnight Moon", capping off with Tyler rocking out on the ukulele as hard as someone can rock out on a ukulele.

I've seen Said the Whale more than a few times in the past few years, and I would say this was the best I have seen them play live. They were incredibly tight, firing on all cylinders, Ben & Tyler's voices working in perfect harmony, and even Jacelyn joining in on more backup vocal duties than before.
It made me really excited to see what they come up with next.


setlist
More Than This; Mother; Camillo (The Magician); Narrows; The Light Is You; My Government Heart; Big Sky, MT; Safe To Say; Resolutions; Seasons; I Could Smoke; Oh K, Okay; Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings [Father John Misty cover]; Helpless Son; The Gift of a Black Heart; Loveless; Curse the Currents; Willow; On The Ropes; I Love You.
(encore) The Weight of the Season; Emerald Lake, AB; Goodnight Moon. 

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