. : : April 6th, 2012 : : .
Our Lady Peace might be one of the most important alternative rock bands to ever come from Canada. They never REALLY broke out internationally like they did at home, but they’ve had a modest amount of success that has kept them recording albums and touring for almost a decade past their prime.
After near back-to-back hit albums Happiness… Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch and Spiritual Machines, the band’s founder and lead guitar player Mike Turner left the band. The usual “Creative Differences” was cited as the reason, although most fans were apprehensive about swallowing that particular pill.
Then came Gravity, a divisive album that brought Our Lady Peace greater international success than they’d hitherto received, but massacred their existing fan base at home. My opinion? The album had a smattering of strong songs — some of the band’s best, perhaps — but was mostly boring, trite, radio-safe pop that made me quickly lose interest. This, in spite of the fact that Spiritual Machines is, to this day, one of my favourite albums.
Our Lady Peace’s remaining fan base — certainly enough to sustain their storied career to the current day — is known for it’s rabid loyalty and passion. I was, admittedly, an ex-pat, and their output largely remained ignored for the better part of a decade, but I was peripherally aware of their continued (albeit tampered) successes.
My best friend remained one of the loyal diehards. When the band announced a tour with two nights in each (or most) towns, each show dedicated to the front-to-back play through of one of their seminal albums, Clumsy and Spiritual Machines, I got us both floor tickets to the latter. It was a nostalgia-fueled great night of music, with the band coming out for a second set comprising mostly of their greatest hits collection. Again, a lot of fun. So, I guess they ended up back on my radar a bit.
Said friend bought tickets to see the band play at not one, not two, but THREE shows on a small North American tour, and when he raved about the performances, the song selections (including a couple of rarely played tracks from Spiritual Machines), and the quality of the new disc, he ensured that I went to at least ONE of these shows. My arm didn’t have to be twisted much, granted, but when I was presented with a scalper ticket to the Buffalo gig, I shrugged, smiled, and thought to myself, “Yay! Another road trip!”
We listened to their new album, Curve, on repeat in the car. Damn. Some of these songs are damn good, and almost sounded like where the band SHOULD have gone ten years ago. Pumping bass lines, Raine Maida‘s uniquely erratic voice, solid guitar work, and Jeremy Taggart‘s strong percussion overflowing with personality.
This road trip was more exciting than the week’s past. This was Good Friday, which meant neither of us had to work and we could leave earlier. The plan was solid; as the start of a holiday weekend, the line for customs at the border crossing promised to be brutal. Radio DJs warned of two-hour plus waits. Road signs en route offered very little hope for anything better. We had music, snacks, drinks, and two iPods full of great music to get us through the trying wait.
Except, when we got to the Peace Bridge, it was smooth sailing, all the way across. Pulling up to the customs booths, there was maybe four or five cars ahead of us. It couldn’t have even been ten minutes before we were in Buffalo. We found our way to Club Infinity to orientate ourselves, but found that there was still a solid 4-hours until door time. What else is there to do on a statutory holiday in Buffalo than hit the mall, shop, and grab some food and drinks at the pub? So, that’s just what we did.
When we returned to the venue, the one empty parking lot was nearing full, and a line-up of fans stretched around the building. The warm sun was quickly setting, and the cool wind was chilling. Of course, that meant that the doors were delayed, so we chatted amicably amongst each other as the line grew behind us and started to snake into the parking lot.
Teeth chattering, we were finally through the doors some half-an-hour after ticket time. I made my way to my taping position and noticed I was right in eye line with staff security. This is an unusual phenomenon I had experienced at the Mohawk for Cursive the previous week as well; at least, unusual to a Torontonian.
Small and most medium-sized venues at home rarely have security outside of the bag-and-ID checkers at the doors, but both Buffalo shows had three or more security guards roaming the floors. I decided to take a rare chance and tape in plain sight, and although I felt his eyes on me throughout the night, I was never approached.
It may have helped that, by the time the band took the stage, the floor was filled with enthusiastic Our Lady Peace fans. I’ve never seen anything like it: the crowd was chanting, “OLP! OLP! OLP!” before the band had even taken the stage. The chant returned several times throughout the night — and surprisingly, not just during the encore calls!
The problem with an enthusiastic audience was touched on in my review of the Cursive show at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Let it be said that, although I praised the Buffalo audience for Cursive’s performance, this audience was even worse than Toronto’s horrible Cursive fans. The annoying off-key singing was bad enough, but I was also surrounded by a fan who felt the need to turn around and announce the song title of every. single. song to her friend, like she was going to get an award for guessing it first. This very same fan had zero respect for the space of people around her, flailing her head around so aggressively that I was convinced she would lean back another inch and break my nose.
“Why didn’t you just move?”, I get asked every time I vent. First, there wasn’t really a whole lot of room to move TO. The place was long ago sold out, and filled to the rafters. Secondly, the grass didn’t seem greener in any other pasture. Fans were either singing along loudly or chatting with their friends as far as the eye could see. Where was the respectful corner of the room?
I’m sure the band loved feeding off the energy, however, as several impromptu changes were made on the fly. The band had been playing one acoustic song per night on the tour, but the Buffalo audience coaxed Raine to perform both a re-worked version Julia from their debut album, Naveed, and one of their many hit singles, Thief.
The band also chose Buffalo as the city to debut the live version of their song Rabbits, from Curve. The live version is wrought with a passion and energy that the album doesn’t quite convey, and was one of the better surprises of the night.
Many of the other new songs don’t sound quite as tight or as full as their studio counterparts. My friend swore up and down this was far-and-away the worst of the three shows he’d been to, and speculated that Raine seemed drunk on stage. I was a bit too far away to corroborate his estimation, but something definitely seemed off. His vocals are especially sloppy sounding during one of their biggest breakthrough hits, Superman’s Dead.
I also didn’t fall in love with guitarist Steve Mazur‘s guitar playing, which was inconsistent, and seemed strongest when playing parts written by Mike Turner. Of course, my opinion may be biased.
The set was front-loaded with older material — after the first two opening tracks from the latest disc, the band went with eight-straight old tried-and-true songs. Sure, it whipped the crowd into a frenzy, but it wasn’t until later in the show that they begin to calm down enough that I could properly get a good view and enjoy the performance. While I was overjoyed to hear the rarely played All My Friends, I was perpetually distracted by the threat of a vicious headbutt.
That’s not to say that the band didn’t keep a few tricks of their sleeve, including a snippet of Naveed in Heavyweight as the set closer, Starseed in the encore closer, and 4am as a second encore(!).
The recording isn’t great — far from my best — but turned out a lot better than I expected. The crowd can get loud at times (duh! Did you even read the above review?!), and there’s some phasing as I try to reposition myself around the uber-fans (or literally try and shove them off me). Existing fans of the band, definitely check out the streaming sample and judge before committing your bandwidth. New fans? Well, my lukewarm review probably wasn’t enough to entice you to swarm all over this tape, and perhaps justifiably so. It was a good show with a handful of great moments, and in spite of my less than favourable experience, I generally had a good time but can’t imagine this will be the tape that creates new fans. Check out their studio work first, and consider coming back if you fall in love.
03. Fire In The Hen House
05. One Man Army
06. Superman’s Dead
07. All My Friends
08. Somewhere Out There
09. Is Anybody Home?
15. Find Our Way
> Naveed [tease]
22. As Fast As You Can
23. Paper Moon
Thanks to Our Lady Peace and Club Infinity.