Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rah Rah @ Biltmore -- 02/20/14

Even though I've seen Regina's Rah Rah three times in the last year and a half, it's always been opening for someone else. Well, now with a Juno nomination under their belts for Alternative Album of the Year, the Regina band returns to Vancouver for their first headlining show in quite a while.

I arrived at the venue just to catch the last couple songs from Brandon Wolfe Scott. The Yukon Blonde guitarist was playing his own solo material, joined by Johnny 99 (aka John Sponarski) on pedal steel. His songs were much more laid back than Yukon Blonde's rock, with more of a country twang. It was still pretty noisy at the venue for the few songs I saw, so I wouldn't mind catching him again at a more attentive place, where I can really dig into the songs.

Next up was singer-songwriter, and fellow Reginan, Andy Shauf. The only other time I saw him live, Shauf was alone on stage, and at the time I remember thinking I would like to see him with a backing band. Well, fortunately this time he was joined by a full band that included strings, woodwinds, and keys, giving a lush and rich sound to his melancholic songs. The main I noticed most about the set was how well it was put together. Starting soft and sad, the set built in intensity as they went, only to drop back down; strung together, the songs had a certain ebb and flow that made for an engaging show.
While his set was good., I felt like I would have liked it a lot more if I were more familiar with his music. Which means I have to spin The Bearer of Bad News a couple times before his next trip to Vancouver.

And finally, the six members of Rah Rah filled the stage. They kicked off with an older song, "The Betrayal pt. 1", and with a relentless high energy, they barely slowed down for an hour. There are few other bands who are as fun to watch, as each member has a great stage presence and an enthusiasm that infects the crowd. Their collection of undeniably catchy songs doesn't hurt either, and the set spanned their three album, but focused mostly on the newest, The Poet's Dead.
Highlights included the raucous "Art and a Wife"; a great showcase of Erin Passmore's vocals in "I'm A Killer"; and "20s", which includes the ever-relatable line "I spent my twenties on rock & roll, I'll spend my thirties feeling old"
I don't think a single member of the band stayed on one instrument all night, as they traded and swapped places -- sometimes even in the middle of the song, seamlessly swapping out the drummer, or trading guitar and bass. And at one point, they were joined by sometimes-member Leif Thorseth for one song, my favourite of theirs, "Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel" which literally gave me chills as Erin and Marshall's voices traded off verses for the heart wrenching song. 
They ended the main set with a fun cover of Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" before coming back out for a couple more, the modern love story "Little Poems" and finally bookending the set with another form their first album Going Steady, "Cuba/Peru".

Between the band's intense energy, the large inflatable letters -- R, A, and H -- which they threw into the crowd partway through the set, and the confetti cannon, Rah Rah once again showed that when it comes to live shows, they are less a band and more a force of nature.

setlist
The Betrayal pt 1, Saint, The Poet's Dead, Run, I'm A Killer, The Innocent One, 20s, Art and a Wife, First Kiss, Dead Men, Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel, Prairie Girl, Dancing On My Own [Robyn cover].
(encore) Little Poems, Cuba/Peru.

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