Blind Pilot @ Lee’s Palace

. : : November 10th, 2011 : : .

I bought my Blind Pilot ticket to Lee’s Palace a couple of months in advance — a rarity for me, as I think I’ve mentioned before. But I wasn’t sure what kind of draw they’d have in Toronto, and I wanted to make sure I could get in. It’s unusual to hear Blind Pilot’s name come up in musical conversation, even though their debut LP Three Rounds and a Sound was one of my favourite musical discoveries of last year.

Yeah, OK. I was a bit late to the show. The album was originally distributed in 2008, but like I said, you never hear anyone talk about them, ever. That is, until a favourite filesharing site of mine highly recommended them. I don’t remember exactly what words were used, but I was intrigued by the description and gave the album a download.

Now? It’s one of my all-time favourite folk discs of all time. Ever. Really, it’s that good. If you don’t have it yet, run to your local record store and pick up it. I’ll wait.

Good, are you back now? Great. Give it a listen, and then come back again, and maybe you’ll understand why the band was able to pack Lee’s Palace wall-to-wall with a capacity crowd.

The band recently released their sophomore disc, We Are The Tide. The album lacks some of the catchy hooks that made their debut such an instant love, but given the chance, We Are The Tide will live up to its name and pull you in. I was excited to finally see the band play some of my favourite songs live, and surprised to find out they weren’t as well-kept a secret as I’d assumed.

Perhaps a bit more secretive would have been better after all, though. Young, immature women spent too much of the show hooting and hollering at front man Israel Nebeker, and young, immature men spent almost as much time shouting for Freebird. … Really? I didn’t think we did that in Canada. And Ladies, save your hooting and hollering for the next screening of a Twilight movie.

The band didn’t let this uselessness phase them, although the bassist perhaps shot himself in the foot by placating the crowd by teasing them with the first line of the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Although he said he didn’t remember any of the other lines, the shouts only came more frequently afterwards. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather hear the band play the phenomenal songs from their own oeuvre.

Blind Pilot themselves, however, sounded phenomenal. The touring band is a fleshed out version of the core band, Israel and percussionist Ryan Dobrowski. Now some six people thick, Blind Pilot treated the Toronto crowd to a marathon set just shy of ninety minutes that featured all but three songs of their recorded output. Each song was performed with energy and enthusiasm — with Israel even breaking two guitar strings in two separate incidents before the final proverbial curtain.

This, and other delays (such as tuning, switching instruments, etc.) was handled adeptly early in the set, but by the final legs, the band had all but given up on between song bantering, allowing excruciating moments of painful dead air. Of course, this only perpetuated the previously mentioned issues with certain crowd members.

I feared a withdrawal, a sort of invisible barrier growing between the musicians and their audience, but if it was ever there at all, the band completely broke it down for the final song of the encore, a beautiful, haunting rendition of Three Rounds And A Sound that was performed unmic’ed, and in the crowd on the dance floor directly in front of the stage. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I left covered in goosebumps.

The recording itself sounds great, as did the venue. There are some minor complaints; the acoustic guitar tone leaves a bit to be desired, and crowd noise flares up from time to time, but generally it’s a great tape that will more than please fans. Due to the aforementioned guitar string problem, I have edited out about five minutes during the encore break, and obviously, there’s a marked volume adjustment for the final number.

Whether or not you decide to snatch this live recording is fine, but I highly, highly recommend grabbing this band’s phenomenal albums, especially their debut. Take this recommendation, and please, enjoy.

01. Keep You Right
02. Two Towns From Me
03. [banter]
04. I Buried A Bone
05. Always
06. [banter] > Freebird [Lynyrd Skynyrd] [tease]
07. Half Moon
08. [banter]
09. Things I Cannot Recall
10. [banter]
11. The Story I Heard
12. [banter]
13. The Colored Night
14. Get It Out
15. [dead air]
16. Just One
17. Go On, Say It
18. [banter]
19. Oviedo
20. [dead air]
21. I Know
22. [dead air]
23. New York
24. One Red Thread
25. We Are The Tide
26. [encore] [edited]
27. The Bitter End
28. [dead air]
29. [banter] > [dead air]
30. Three Rounds and a Sound

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The Story I Heard (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Enormous thanks to the entirety of Blind Pilot and the staff at Lee’s Palace for an unforgettable night.

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