. : : November 3rd, 2011 : : .
This summer, I’ve been all about the East Coast Canadian bands. Meaghan Smith, Paper Lions, and Rebekah Higgs are just a couple of the artists who have called the shore along the Atlantic ocean home that I’ve seen multiple times since the frost melted, but it wasn’t always like that.
I used to be much more interested in the West Coast bands. The Organ, Limblifter, and, of course, Matthew Good were the beginning of my love affair with bands out of BC. One band has disbanded, another on indefinite hiatus, and the third has fallen out of favour, the details of which were outlined in my review of Matthew Good’s last concert in Oshawa in the summer of 2010.
I never did end up really falling for the Vancouver album, and there was such little hype and publicity surrounding his latest disc that I didn’t even know that Lights of Endangered Species had hit store shelves until months after its release.
To prepare myself for the concert, I finally gave the album a cursory spin. My first impression? There’s almost no guitars on the album, and when there is, they’re buried so far in the mix, they’re bordering on inaudible. Instead, we have lots and lots of piano, supporting by various brass, string and woodwind arrangements that threaten to reach the brilliance of Matthew Good’s solo debut, Avalanche, but never quite reach those great heights. I was surprised, however, how much I enjoyed parts of it.
I expected the live show to be a different beast altogether, and I was right. Back into the fold is Matthew Good Band-era drummer Ian Browne, but otherwise, the band that stormed the stage at Queen Elizabeth Theatre was unrecognizable.
The theatre crowd was slow to warm up to the performance, showing sparring enthusiasm until half a dozen songs into the set when the band broke into MGB hit single, The Future Is X-Rated, and followed up with another smash single from the same Beautiful Midnight album, Load Me Up.
The crowd settled back down for a couple of newer tunes, including one of the evening’s highlights, Non Populus, and didn’t really seem to come back alive until, after repeated loud requests of a smart-ass fan, Matt encouraged Ian to tease the drum intro to Rico, a fan-favourite single from the band’s sophomore release, Underdogs, that Good has quite publicly disowned.
Good continued to tease the audience by improvising a riff and throwing the lyrics, “I don’t remember that song” on top before leading the band in breaking out into a freestyle “jazz” jam. It seemed like Good was humourously giving the proverbial finger to the old fans coming to request the songs over a decade and a half old, but it was at that same point in the setlist that the songs changed to almost exclusively older material.
The audience was treated to a somewhat rare full-band rendition of Underdogs biggest single, Apparitions, and his first solo single, Weapon. The biggest surprise of all, though, was the rarely (if ever!) played non-single/fan favourite, While We Were Hunting Rabbits as a set closer. Stripped of the thumping drums and string section, the song was a sparse rendition of only keyboard and voice, but a hauntingly beautiful “thank you” to the true fans in the room.
However, it wasn’t until another explosive rendition of Giant, the first song of the encore and the lead song off of MGB’s Beautiful Midnight album, that the audience finally took to their feet and began to abandon their seats and rows. The fans may be forgiven their lack of early enthusiasm as Good himself seemed comparatively subdued, instead leaving the bulk of the energy to come from the (mostly) younger backing band.
Not without fault was also the venue itself. The lights were phenomenal, but the sound quality couldn’t keep up. Matt’s guitar was the biggest casualty of the poor mix — unless everyone else was tacit, it was impossible to hear.
The recording itself? Well, it’s definitely not up to par with my recent recordings. The lackluster sound in the venue, and the assigned theatre seating means I was a bit further from the speakers than I’d normally like, and surrounded by several rows of people, who’s applause made the master difficult to EQ precisely without threat of clipping. Not a bad tape, and will more than do for fans and attendees, but definitely shouldn’t serve as your first introduction to the band.
Please excuse the occasional rustling; I was grabbing Halls lozenges for myself and a friend as we were both fighting a terrible cough the whole night.
01. Set Me On Fire
02. Last Parade
03. Born Losers
05. What If I Can’t See The Stars Mildred?
06. Zero Orchestra
07. The Future Is X-Rated
09. Load Me Up
10. A Silent Army In The Trees
11. Non Populus
12. [banter] > Rico [tease]
13. [improv. jam]
14. [improv. jam]
17. While We Were Hunting Rabbits
20. Alert Status Red
21. Shallow’s Low
Thanks to Matthew Good and his touring band, and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.