Paper Lions @ Rivoli

. : : November 3rd, 2012 : : .

The problem with seeing a perfect show from a band is that every performance afterwards will suffer from comparison.

That was a bit of my initial problem with enjoying the set Paper Lions played at The Rivoli in Toronto last November. After an overly generous two-set free performance at Dundas Square earlier in the year, no set would be able to quite hit all the right notes. The sound in the venue had trouble mixing just the right amount of lead guitar among the rhythm section, and the back-up vocals couldn’t seem to quite strike the right balance.

Not the band’s fault, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, listening back to the recording some four months later in an attempt to jog the ol’ memory, it seems hard to argue that the band did any less than leave it all on the floor. Actually, all the complaints I remember having about the live performance are almost erased by a solid post-production EQ job (if I do say so myself!).

Although their full length follow up to the phenomenal Trophies and the free-for-all At Long Creek EPs was due over a month earlier and has since been pushed back to spring of this year, the band’s excitement about its eventual release was palatable. Songs previewed over the last few years one or two at a time started to dominate the setlist, but the room full of similarly excited fans weren’t complaining.

It’s hard to complain seriously when you see a band put together a solid set of 16 fantastic pop songs; even if they’re crunched within the confines of an hour (almost). Perhaps inspired by the multi-million YouTube views suddenly and unexpectedly accumulated for their years old video for Travelling, the band seems to continually be firing on all cylinders. Their live performances are frantic, sweaty messes that actually benefit tremendously from the quick, rapid-fire in-and-out three-minute pop song format.

I’m a relatively new fan, having only discovered the band myself some two years ago — but having seen almost all of their Toronto shows since, I’ve seen a progression in both performance and audience. Word of mouth and a big, unplanned explosion of interest in the band following a somewhat public scuttle with their label that ended up on Reddit has helped foster a frantic fan base, and it’s easy to see why.

The band even humored a persistent fan’s request for the rarely played Revolver-era Beatles-esque opening track to their previous self-titled LP, Strawberry Man; but it almost didn’t happen — the sound man started playing music over the house PA before the band was even off the stage for the encore. Luckily, the band ignored the slight, and performed a very unique two-song encore, following up the rarely played Strawberry Man with an un-mic’ed acoustic performance of the brilliant sing-along, Polly Hill, while standing on chairs in the middle of the venue as the crowd closed in around them.

Yeah, OK. You got me. Although the night started off a bit pessimistically due to my admitted sensitivity to technical snafus, I still left The Rivoli with a smile plastered on my face. What can I say? Paper Lions have that power over me. I, for one, cannot wait for their new album (and, of course, another tour!).

01. Don’t Touch That Dial
02. [banter]
03. Stay Here For A While
04. Sweat It Out
05. [banter]
06. Pull Me In
07. Bodies in the Winter
08. Trouble
09. [banter]
10. Little Liar
11. [banter]
12. We Survived
13. So Lonely
14. [banter]
15. Ghostwriter
16. Travelling
17. My Friend
18. [banter]
19. Lost The War
20. [encore]
21. [banter]
22. Strawberry Man
23. [banter]
24. Polly Hill

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Little Liar (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

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