Considering that I live in Canada and the Weakerthans are among my favourite artists, the fact that I had never seen their live show could be considered somewhat criminal. I suppose I could use the excuse that they have, to my knowledge, never been to my previous home of Northern BC, but still -- it seemed shameful. Imagine my joy when I saw a flyer advertising that John K. and the boys would be rolling out to Vancouver Island for a show in support of Reunion Tour. Tears were shed, drinks were had, anticipation grew.
After a bit of a hectic ferry ride back to Victoria after Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, I arrived at the venue in time to grab a beer and watch the opening act, the Last Town Chorus. Though I'd only heard a couple of songs on MySpace, main contributor Megan Hickey was quick to impress with her beautiful voice and unique slide guitar-led melodies. The guitar's volume was a bit much at times and the sound got grating, but these occasions were rare and for the most part, the set was a very relaxed and fun warm-up for the night. They played a number of songs, including a cover of David Bowie's "Modern Love" that was a big hit. Overall, the crowd was very receptive to the material, even though many were clearly antsy for the Weakerthans to hit the stage, as the show was running late.
When the band finally hit the stage, the venue erupted with applause. As the set started, the crowd quickly began to join singer John K. Samson in singing just about every word, particularly to those songs from Reconstruction Site. The band played a fair chunk of songs from that album, but also many more than I expected from the recently released Reunion Tour. They also threw in a few old favourites, but less than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, the set list was extremely well-rounded, and the crowd seemed quite happy (although many seemed disappointment at the lack of "One Great City").
The band's performance was, to say the least, phenomenal. The new tracks from Reunion Tour sound even better live than on record, and the band seemed awfully comfortable with all songs played. A grin rarely left Samson's face throughout the set, and bassist Greg Smith was particularly energetic, dancing all around the stage. The band received help on a few tracks by a sharp-dressed man playing a French horn, which, though a bit hard to hear, added even more to an already great set.
As high as my expectations were going into their set, they were completely exceeded. The band was nearly flawless (aside from botching the first five seconds of a track, which they quickly laughed off and redid), and their energy was contagious. Not only has the band put out one of the must-have albums of the year, but they are also home to what is certainly one of the best live shows you'll see this year as well.
Set list (roughly):
- Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call
- Our Retired Explorer
- Relative Surplus Value
- Reconstruction Site
- Civil Twilight
- Sun in an Empty Room
- The Reasons
- Tournament of Hearts
- Time's Arrow
- Night Windows
- Left and Leaving
- Plea from a Cat Named Virtute
- My Favourite Chords
- Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
- Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionist