Friday, April 10, 2015

Whitehorse @ Commodore -- 04/09/15

You know the story by now: Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland were both making music on their own, occasionally touring together, both even backing up Sarah McLachlan, when at some point the married couple wondered why they were doing it separately, instead of together. They formed Whitehorse in 2011, and the rest was history.
Now on the heels of their third album, Leave No Bridge Unburned, they returned to Vancouver's legendary Commodore Ballroom.

Unfortunately I missed the supporting act, Noah Gundersen, arriving at the venue mere moments before Whitehorse took the stage.

The setup was that of a full band; drum kit, keys, a large bass drum, old phone receivers fixed up as microphones, all in front of a stylized light-up "W". But it was only Luke and Melissa on stage, as they masterfully looped their songs on their own. They would often start with Luke on the drums and Melissa on keys, building layer upon layer of the song before strapping on the guitars (they both switched off between guitar & bass) to let loose with weapons like Melissa's powerful voice and Luke's phenomenal guitar chops.

Not every song was looped, though, a few of the slower songs were just the two on guitar, their great voices intertwining into great harmonies. And it was obvious the chemistry the two of them had; a frequent question I see interviewers ask the band is, "Is it hard for a married couple to tour & be together so often", but just one look at them on stage answers that question. The way they looked at each other, even the way they shared the microphone perched at the very front of the stage, told you all you needed to know.

Songs ranged from the gnarled guitars of "Baby What's Wrong" to the sultry "Tame as the Wild Ones" to the heartbreaking "Broken", a pre-Whitehorse song from Luke's oeuvre. A couple highlights of the set included "Devil's Got a Gun", with its instantly recognisable riff as the song built to a huge finale with an outstanding drum breakdown, and an older song from Melissa's solo career, "Passenger 24", which started with McClelland at the front of the stage, her voice driving the dark song before Doucet burst in with the drums, and then tore it up on his Gretsch White Falcon. He even slipped in a little bit of the James Bond theme into the mix -- perhaps a nod to the common (and correct) opinion that the band would be perfect to record a song for a Bond movie.

The main set came to a close with their current single, a driving, anthemic song "Downtown" before coming back out for a couple more; "Jane" from their album with one of my favourite titles The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss and finally wrapping up with a Tom Waits cover, "Gun Street Girls", giving one last showcase of their looping.


The first time I saw Whitehorse, a little over two years ago at the Commodore, I had no idea what I was in store for. And this show blew that one away. I have said many times before on this very blog that I love watching looping artists, especially ones this good, and combined with their raw talent and clear passion they have towards each other and the music, it makes for a show that will be tough to top.


setlist
You Get Older, Baby What's Wrong, No Glamour in the Hammer, Boss Man, Broken, Emerald Isle, Tame as the Wild Ones, The One I Hurt, Sweet Disaster, Achilles' Desire, Fake Your Death (And I'll Fake Mine), Devil's Got a Gun, Passenger 24, Downtown. 
(encore) Jane, Gun Street Girl [Tom Waits cover].

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