There's something refreshing about going to a rock show. It seems that in recent memory, though I've gone to punk shows, folk shows, hardcore shows and indie shows, I haven't been to an honest-to-goodness rock show in quite some time. So when I saw that two of the better Canadian rock bands around these days were on tour together, there didn't seem to be any excuse to pass it up.
Ladyhawk took the stage first, although I was immediately surprised by their appearance. Rather than the indie hipsters I anticipated, the guys in the band resemble the kids in high school who skipped class to go to the library to play Magic: The Gathering. And despite the fact that I was waiting for twelve-sided die to come out of their guitar cases, the band opened their set strong and proceeded to rock much harder than anticipated. Long-haired bassist Kyle Hawryluk grooved around as though making love to the air, while the manic motions of lead singer Duffy Driedger kept the energy high. On an unrelated and completely unimportant note, drummer Ryan Peters made the bizarre wardrobe choice of a pastel blue tanktop, thin mustache and large "bling" necklace, making him look vaguely like this guy that I see on billboards here in Vancouver. The band's alcohol-fueled rock works better live than it does on record, and the set had most of the audience dancing along. The definite highlights of Ladyhawk's performance were "STHD," "(I'll Be Your) Ashtray" and "Dugout," but the set was quite solid all-around.
Break time. Now, before discussing the Constantines' set, I must preface it by educating the reader on the stylistic choices made in the next paragraph. You see, as great as the Cons' set was, my attention was occasionally stolen by a young pair of strangers. And though I may appear as some sort of voyeur-driven pervert in my account of them, to witness their actions was unavoidable as they were positioned directly in front of me. So I could not help but notice that rather than devoting all of their attention to the great Canadian rock music in front of them, they seemed to be a bit distracted by each other. What unfolded seemed a romantic comedy that fits in nicely with the Cons' set, and so this was included. These interludes shall be spliced into my review of the Cons' set in parentheses and italics. For the sake of anonymity (read: I do not know their names), I shall call the male "Stubble" due to the intentional five o' clock shadow he was sporting, and the girl "April O' Neil" because of her trench coat.
(Upon seeing the Cons take the stage, Stubble tries to find prime standing room. He finds it, of course, next to April O' Neil)
The Cons open their set with "Hotline Operator" from Tournament of Hearts. Although tracks from their entire discography make appearances, the set from this point on is heavily drawn from their latest release, Kensington Heights.
(Stubble makes polite conversation with April O' Neil. She is smiling. He whispers something in her ear, and walks to the bar. April O' Neil boasts to a nearby friend that Stubble is buying her a drink. Her friend fakes a smile, and realizes that she should leave the area to ensure privacy in this 1200-person venue.)
Comparisons between the Cons and Bruce Springsteen are even more obvious during the live show. Lead singer Bryan Webb is sporting a shirt with a fair-sized collar, with several buttons undone. His dark, curly hair recalls The Boss' younger days, with his head bobbing away from the microphone during his more fierce deliveries. Occasionally, this causes his voice to be lost in the noise, but for the most part, his delivery is spot-on.
(Stubble seems to think that a great pick-up move is pulling out his camera, putting his arm around April O' Neil, and taking a photo with his other arm. April O' Neil seems to agree)
The Cons play the lead-off single from Kensington Heights, "Hard Feelings."
(April O' Neil checks herself out in a nearby mirror. Stubble checks out April O' Neil. Presumably, Stubble has "Hard Feelings")
The band breaks into a fantastic performance of "Time Can Be Overcome," one of the new album's highlights, but the band promises afterwards that this is the last ballad.
(April O' Neil and Stubble seem disheartened at the dearth of ballads to come. April O' Neil checks herself out in the mirror again while Stubble is preoccupied with the band. He looks at her shortly thereafter, and decides another photo is called for)
I'm excited by the inclusion of "Thieves" and "Shower of Stones," two Cons tracks that are fronted by guitarist Steve Lambke rather than the aforementioned Webb. Lambke's unique but passionate vocal delivery make these excellent additions to the set.
(Okay, April O' Neil's mirror-check count is well into double digits, while the memory card in Stubble's camera is quickly filling up. Clearly, these strangers are stuck in a rut, and need something to pull them out)
The band's keyboard player, Will Kidman, has a pirate flag flying off his kit throughout the set. Unfortunately, even the Jolly Roger can't make the keyboard seem remotely badass. The set is now coming to a close, but the audience realizes that this is just a facade. The band will be back shortly.
(Time is running out. "Do What You Can Do," Stubble!)
The encore sees Ladyhawk join the Cons on stage for a rowdy rendition of "Nighttime Anytime (It's Alright)," which has the crowd chanting along.
(Stubble and April O' Neal have finally kissed. However, they are taking it too far, really sucking face in the middle of the floor. Members of the audience in my area seem disturbed)
The band completes their set, and the audience slowly starts to filter out of the building.
(I am trying to leave, but am struggling to get past Stubble and April, who have positioned their make-out in a location that really stems the flow of traffic. I finally get through, doing what I can to avoid the overbearing sight of these two lovebirds)
Ultimately, even if you didn't end up making out with a blonde girl in a trenchcoat (or, for the ladies, a dude whose face is likely to give you rug burn), you had to be asleep to not get caught up in the excitement of this great show. If this dynamic duo is hitting your town in the coming weeks, you'd be wise to make an appearance.