Nothing seems to revive a band's popularity like a little time off. Just look at bands like Hot Water Music or even more high-profile acts like Blink-182, who have seen their audiences grow immensely from the tours prior to their surprise breakups to the subsequent reunion tours. The same could definitely be said for Burlington, Ontario's Boys Night Out. It had been more than two years since the band quietly stopped playing together, amidst many break-up rumours and numerous side-projects popping up, but they didn't seem to have any trouble selling out the mid-sized Opera House,a venue that's in the past hosted sold out shows by bands like Lagwagon and Nirvana, to name a few. To sweeten the deal, the band decided to do a special sort of reunion show -- reuniting with guitarist Rob Pasalic (now of St. Alvia), to reform the band's original lineup, and playing only songs from that era, their debut Broken Bones and Bloody Kisses EP and its followup, Make Yourself Sick.
Opening the show was an unannounced set from BNO singer Conner Lovat-Frasier's new outfit, Crazy Diamond, and had I known they were playing I would have made an effort to get there earlier. C'est la vie. Also missed was a set from Montreal's Barn Burner due to my late entry and comedic rap-duo Simcoe Street Mob due to cancellation.
First up (for me) was long-standing, revolving-door Burlington pop group I Love You to Death, formerly known as the Petit Project. This band has been around for years and sadly, the most impressive thing about them is the length of their list of former members. The band, clothed in matching outfits, sporting ties that match their instruments and at least one Britney Spears-style headset mic, play a unique brand of precious synth-pop -- every song containing a series of "na"s or a collection of "whoa"s, with cutesy lyrics that border on obnoxious. One gets the impression if they had spent less time on their image and a little more time making their material more stimulating and edger than a pillow fight, they'd have a bigger claim to fame than appearing on "Radio Free Roscoe."
When gearing up for a show of older Boys Night Out material, that of the screamy, angsty, loud and intense variety, having this band open up really sets a peculiar stage. It harshes your mellow (or, more accurately mellows your harsh). Between the bands I noticed the show was not only packed at this point, but also had the highest girl-to-boy ratio this side of an Atmosphere show -- nearly 60/40 by my estimation. Also random but notable was the surprising amount of merch that BNO had for sale, for an inactive band.
Going into this show, I had my reservations. In their heyday, BNO were about as hard-touring as it comes, but never the tightest live act. They also hadn't played together in two years (and over five with this lineup). Would they be sloppy? Would they play the renditions of older material featured on the toned-down redux EP, Fifty Million People Can't Be Wrong?
My worries were abruptly dashed, however, when the band took the stage with little fanfare (I was expecting at least a "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" sample), and began their set with "Where We Breathe," the opener from Broken Bones and Bloody Kisses, with all the screams and intensity intact.
As promised, the band played the entirety of their first two releases, 16 songs, though not in their original album sequence. Where lesser bands would simply go through the motions of playing their back catalogue, it really seemed as if BNO really put their all into it, with great zeal and enthusiasm. Sure, some of the lyrics and subject matter of their older material would seem melodramatic and almost trite if heard fresh today, but they captured a time and place in the lives of many in attendance.
The band seemed legitimately humbled by the size and enthusiasm of the audience in the sold-out Opera House, but fared well, bantering (perhaps nervously) with the audience, reminding everyone of their long-standing "no encore" policy, and informing one member of the crowd that they had already played the song being requested. Ever the showman, Conner wore an ill-advised leather jacket under the hot lights for the duration of the set, despite the constant, almost motherly nagging of crowd members to remove it, to avoid overheating.
Standout songs were the rousing "Hold on Tightly, Let Go Lightly," old favorite "Sketch Artist Composite" and the haunting "Yeah, No...I Know...". The jacket was finally removed for set closer "A Torrid Love Affair," which ended with Connor jumping into the crowd for the final line: "Save me or save yourself."
While it would have been nice to hear songs from the criminally underrated Trainwreck or more mature self-titled, this particular show was special in recapturing a particular time for the band. Many of the band members have other projects on the go, from the aforementioned Crazy Diamond and St. Alvia, to rap group/Internet stars SkittleBrau. The band also made special note when announcing the show that they weren't calling this a "last show." So, with any luck this isn't the last we'll hear of Boys Night Out.