Sunday, April 05, 2009

Rolling Tundra Review-ed

Walked up to the River Run Center in time to catch the opening act, Bahamas. The walking scored me a free pin reading "Weak - Cons - Serve" since they are running a "Rock, don't drive" green tour. The River Run Center proved, once again, to be an exquisite concert venue, as was evidenced instantly when the two-piece took the stage. The sounds of their electric guitar and drums rang out clearly as they played unoffensive, though also unenthralling, rock music. The final song that included the hairless-headed (besides full-on-handlebar-moustached) drummer was easily the best, and the set ended with the white-jean and red-lumberjack-shirt-wearing guitarist/singer playing a song on his own.

The Constantines burst out with a rawkin' version of I Will Not Sing a Hateful Song which set a tempo that carried on through excellent rock tunes such Trans Canada, Hard Feelings and Hot Line Operator. Fronted by Bryan Webb and his uniquely appealing voice, the Cons really know how to bring it (along with an extra case of rock) for their live shows. Although their style is more suited to a cramped, sweaty dive bar where the beer flows freely, they still managed to make a solid impression in this large, formal theatre. The set did slow for a song on which John K. Samson joined the group to sing lead vocals before returning backstage. There were a couple more mid-tempo cuts in the midst of the set that meandered slightly too long, but using such hits as Night Time, Anytime (It's Alright) (as inscribed on the Ebar mensroom wall) they were able to amp the energy back up at the end to leave on a high point. In fact, it was the amp that did it - as a guitarist cranked all the dials on his amp during the last song and then picked up his guitar in a battle-axe fashion. For a moment I thought he was going to destroy the guitar as he began swinging it around over his head, until I realized he was creating phenomenal feedback to fit in with the rocking out that the rest of the band were doing. They left the stage to a standing O.

It was a near perfect set from Winnipeg's biggest indie export - The Weakerthans. They play live songs as though they were studio-produced, managing to reproduce their songs almost identically. This works however (especially with the sound quality at the River Run) because it allows you to more fully appreciate the songwriting abilities of this band. Plus, despite being Canada's most prolific lyricist, John K. Samson comes across as a completely humble and endearing fellow. The sold-out crowd hung on his every word, for both in-song and between-song banter. It is difficult to pick stand-out songs but to only name a few, I'd be forced to include Left and Leaving, Our Retired Explorer, Tournament of Hearts and both of Virtute's laments. However choosing the most unique solo of the night is a cinch. Beating out the One Hundred Dollars-t-shirt-clad trumpeter, was the pedal-steel player who grabbed a meter-plus-long flexible plastic tube and whirled it above his head, varying the pitch of the whistle by ever-so-slightly adjusting the speed with which he twirled it. Incredible!

Tremendous applause resounded throughout the theatre as the Weakerthans departed the stage and we jumped to our feet. The acoustics in the hall are so great that the few thousand of us sounded like a sold-out Madison Square Garden and we could not be denied an encore. After minutes of our hollering, John returned to the stage alone and broke into the much-demanded One Great City! which I'm sure satiated many people's desires (since I could hear them singing along). The full band rejoined him for another couple of songs before the Rolling Tundra Revue (II!) finished rocking, and rolled out of Guelph.

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