The Weakerthans / The Constantines / Roy - live in Seattle (Cover Artwork)

The Weakerthans / The Constantines / Roy

live in Seattle (2003)

live show

The day couldn't have started on much of a sadder note. The passing of Johnny Cash and John Ritter had struck a chord with everyone familiar with their work. After months of sunshine in Seattle, the weather was showing signs of the all-to-familiar rain.

And, to top it all off, my date for the show cancelled on me.

Tonight, the Graceland had a double header. An early show consisting of No Use For a Name and None More Black, and the second show being the one I'm reviewing. Before the show, John K. roamed the line outside, and most seemed completely unaware of his presence. I tried and tried to think up a clever introduction, though the best I could muster was to wave and smile like a giddy schoolgirl. That seemed enough for him, and his brief smile back was enough to make me question my heterosexuality.

The doors for the Weakerthans show opened late, and a restless crowd waited until 10:30 or so before the first band took the stage.

Roy, a local group, started things off. Think Weezer (in a good way) with a touch more speed. Having never heard of the band before tonight, they certainly piqued my interest as a band to check out in the near future. They began with an obligatory (and deserved) tribute to Johnny Cash and John Ritter, and the show was underway. Their sound was very tight, fast, and overall surprisingly catchy. A great way to start off the night, and already my spirits were lifting.

After a short set from Roy, the Constantines were next up to bat. They opened the show with the fan favorite "Shine a Light", and didn't let down the standard set by that amazing song. Though some of the crowd seemed hesitant to participate at first, the lead singer literally forced them to with sheer will. He aggressively slammed the microphone stand on top of a front speaker, leaned into the crowd, and sang with all the energy his raspy voice could muster. Their set included the other two songs I most wanted to hear; namely Insectovora and Nighttime/Anytime (It's alright). The ceiling at the graceland is incredibly low over the stage, so when the singer stood on the monitors, he would literally be pressing his head against the top of the showroom. The Constantines showed incredible stage presence, and an awe-inspiring talent with their instruments. As absolutely fantastic as their album is (without question, one of the best of the year), it still cannot do their live show justice. They emit the sort of raw emotion that will jump down anyone's throat and get them into the show.

After a huge ovation for the Constantines, the Weakerthans began to tune. The line for the bar was intolerably long, so I chose to lean against the wall and wait it out. After a trip to the godawful Graceland bathrooms (with the ridiculously overpowering smell of urine and feces reminding you that the bands here have yet to hit it big) the unmistakable and irreplaceable voice of John K. Samson could be heard. After a quick mic check and tuning session, the Weakerthans tore into their first song.

The Weakerthans set spanned all of their releases, most heavily favoring Left and Leaving and their new release, Reconstruction Site. The most notable songs being A Plea From a Cat Named Virtute, Our Retired Explorer, and an amazing rendition of Without Mythologies that ended in an incredibly explosive instrumental (for those who think the Weakerthans can't rock to hell out, you'll be proven wrong at their live show). Crowd favorites Left and Leaving, Aside, Watermark, and Psalm for the Elk's Lodge Last Call were all included. It was an incredibly well balanced set, and only a few notable songs weren't included (I would have loved to hear My Favourite Chords and Maryland Bridge).

At one point in the show, John K. hit a wrong note on guitar. After a few laughs from himself and his band mates, he handed 20 dollars to a person in the crowd. He then explained that each time he makes a mistake like that, he gives someone money as motivation not to do it again. He asked the person to use the money for a Constantines shirt, and then went right into the next song. It's the cute, awkward, and entirely unique parts of John's personality that really set the Weakerthans apart from the rest of the good music out there.

Over the course of the set, the Weakerthans showed their experimental side. They played everything from bottles to a whistle tube (the kind you swing over your head to make a whistling noise), and John's clever songwriting never fails to bring a smile to your face.

After a brief but insistent encore, John K. came back out for his solo rendition of the controversial One Great City. Then, once more joined by the band, they played another four fantastic song set and called it a night. At this point, in spite of the passing of Johnny Cash and John Ritter... and in spite of going to the show entirely solo... my face hurt from smiling. With lines like "Comment allez-vouz se sois? Je suis, comme ci comme ca/Yes a penguin taught me french back in antarctica", one can't hold back a grin at each one of John's mini story songs.

For those of you who haven't heard the new Weakerthans or Constantines albums, I couldn't wholeheartedly recommend them enough. And, for those of you who are iffy about seeing this show--don't be. Both the albums and this tour are an essential part of music in 2003.