Am I crazy for having the assumption that a Weakerthans show might get sold out in Seattle?
After having knowledge of this show for a solid two-plus months, I procrastinated buying my ticket until the day of the show because I didn't have anyone to go with until the actual day that the show was going down. That's when I was pleasantly reminded that I can't buy tickets online the day of the show, and, being worried I wouldn't get a ticket, went downtown about three hours beforehand in order to ensure my ticket purchase. Needless to say, I successfully made myself look like an ass, and my friends and I easily got tickets for the show. Whoops.
Anyway, the Black Swedes were the first band to play. All I had heard from them were whatever songs were posted online and 30-second clips from iTunes, but from what I had heard, I enjoyed it, and they held up to this during the show. They even decided to play a small homage to Michael Jackson by throwing a 10- or 15-second clip of "Billie Jean" into one of their songs. They played a solid sounding set, and seemed to musically match the style of the Weakerthans very well.
Following the Black Swedes was Jason Collet. To be completely honest, I was pining for something resembling Rocky Votolato's live show, and that may have been holding expectations a bit too high. Not to take anything away from Collet, but I simply didn't enjoy his set nearly as much as the Black Swedes or the Weakerthans, and that may have been because he was an acoustic performer between two full bands or it may have been because I had a number of beers in my system that rendered me impatient to see John K. Samson and co. take the stage.
While the venue wasn't exactly empty, it wasn't packed until after Collet departed from the stage. The Weakerthans took the stage around 11:25 and immediately kicked into "Night Windows." They never let up after that. Seeing the Weakerthans was a different experience than most shows I've attended for a number of reasons, with the first being that I was not used to a mostly idle crowd that, rather than jumping around and dancing or moshing to every song, shows their appreciation by just...listening. And this is far from a negative. There was a certain sort of beauty in being able to hear the band play their songs without the crowd singing every lyric back to them, with some predictable exceptions being songs such as "Our Retired Explorer" and "Aside." The performance really hit its stride when the band, save for Samson, strolled off-stage after playing "Civil Twilight" for what Samson called a "smoke break." Having Samson play the next three songs by himself was a terrific treat, as coming into the show I hadn't expected to hear any acoustics, with the only thinkable exception being "Bigfoot!"
Following their main set closer of "(Manifest)", Samson marched back out on stage to begin the encore by stating that "We haven't played this song in about three or four years." While he was getting his guitar in tune, he started talking about how nice the sound of the fan blowing on stage was, and how it should be taped, to which someone yelled back "It's already been taped...several times to the wall!" Samson's response was a casual chuckle, which essentially described the vibe of the venue for the duration that the Weakerthans were onstage: relaxed and fun. After a bit of tweaking with his guitar, he eventually kicked into one of the biggest surprises of the set by beginning "Utilities," and after the first minute or so, the rest of the band paraded back on stage to piece together the rest of the song. While never being one of my favorite tracks from Reunion Tour, hearing it live garnered a new appreciation of the song for me. They then kicked into "Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionist" with a fury, and finished off the night with a stunningly beautiful performance of "Pamphleteer," complete with light flashing from the otherwise-awkward disco ball hanging above the main floor.
In addition to this, they played with a precision that had been hyped in previous reviews that I had read, but didn't completely expect. Besides maybe two of the 20 songs they played, the Weakerthans were damn near perfect in their performance, with a perfect blend of accuracy and enthusiasm. I was also impressed by the diversity in their set amongst their four LPs (three apiece from Fallow and Left and Leaving while having seven each from Reconstruction Site and Reunion Tour). I wasn't expecting to hear much from their first two albums, but having six older tracks was a nice surprise.
All in all, it was nothing short of a terrific show. I feel as if the Black Swedes and Jason Collet are two acts that I will continue to explore, and the Weakerthans absolutely impressed in every manner that they possibly could, and I can only hope that they return to the greater Seattle area some time in the near future. After attending, I've found myself constantly replaying the songs from their set list on my iPod in addition to the tracks that I wish were included. The way that the Weakerthans played left an impression of near-perfection on me that will undoubtedly be brought forth as a mark to work for in my reviews of future shows. And, for those like me who prefer having a full set list...here it is (minus the breaks, I didn't keep track of those):
- Night Windows
- Tournament of Hearts
- Our Retired Explorer
- Reconstruction Site
- Civil Twilight
- One Great City!
- Sounds Familiar
- Plea from a Cat Named Virtute
- The Reasons
- Anchorless (I think, 99% sure)
- Left and Leaving
- Relative Surplus Value
- Sun in an Empty Room
- Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionist