Sunday, 21 March 2010

Devendra Banhart at The Commodore, Vancouver, 18/3/10

Call me old fashioned, but I always assumed that you payed to see a gig, in this case upwards of $30, if you liked the artist, enjoyed some of the albums they'd put out, and fancied seeing how their recordings translated to the live arena. Well, I'm gonna get on my high horse for just a sec, and am gonna proclaim that half the people in the crowd at the Devendra Banhart show the other night were nitwits - they spent so much time chatting boisterously to each other that they clearly couldn't have given two shits about who they were seeing. Why pay to see someone if you're then going to proceed to try and drown their sound out with your own brand of mind-numbing witticisms and dead-as-a-dog flirtations?

I felt a bit sorry for Devendra actually. When he walked on the stage he was greeted with decent applause, but later then when he did the solo part of the set - just his guitar, his lush voice, and his exquisite lyrics - the audience got bored and started chatting amongst themselves. Getting his hopes up, egging him on, and then dropping him with a heavy bump - you're worse than my ex... Why would you wanna play an honest, hard-working musician like that Vancouver?

I can't understand it myself, as the solo stuff was easily the best - that was the Devendra you heard in the earlier records, and the Devendra you wished to see in a wooded glade in late summer whilst you swigged away at an organic cider, and had someone plait various summer flowers into your Old-Testament-sized beard. The Commodore is not the venue for Devendra, it lacks the intimacy that his lo-fi folk thrives upon, and he would have done a lot better to have done 2 or 3 nights in a smaller venue, perhaps The Biltmore.

So, the crowd didn't appreciate the solo set. They did enjoy the main chunk of the show, where Devendra's backing band, The Grogs, gave the set depth, energy, and enough amplified sound to drown up the rude bastards at the back. People were clapping, waving lighters, cheering - all the signs that tell an artist that people are enjoying the show: just to confuse Devendra a wee bit more I presume. Paradoxically, I thought that this section was a bit run-of-the-mill, the band were tight yeah, but they didn't really offer me anything innovative, and certainly nothing worth the $30. When you go to see Devendra Banhart, you go to see him, as he's the unique the musician.

As it was, I didn't feel he was very unique on the night. I was left with very few memories of the show, and overall a sense of being cheated out of a cracking gig because the crowd didn't give the artist the respect he deserves. To all those people after the show complaining of Devendra not playing an encore - I tell you, it's your own damned fault.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A Sunny Day in Glasgow @ The Media Club, Vancouver, 7 March

Less a glowing review, more a glaring one. It gave me sun spots. No more solar-powered puns, I promise.

This was the first gig we've seen since the almighty HEALTH in the far-from-almighty Edmonton, in our epic traversing of the Canadian continent. We've made it folks, we're in sometimes-sunny-sometimes-drizzly Vancouver, the home of cheap sushi and records, and expensive everything else.

K. So, first off were some band who played 'baroque pop', or 'moody nothingness'. As if you were trying to recall some moment from your past with the assurance that you will never retrieve it, vaguely think of Beach House, or perchance Grizzly Bear, but then swap their musical inventiveness for a grating cello, and exchange all the other things that make these guys so refreshing for stagnant, maudlin melodies that never go anywhere. What a dud way to start off a night - a similar effect to how our job center out here only plays the most depressive Radiohead tracks to cheer up the unemployed. Counter-productive mate.

Second band. Could have been called Solar, or Solarus, or Solar Shite or something. I think they were only picked cus their name is about the same hot blob as A.S.D.I.G.'s. Drone done terribly. How the heck do you do drone badly? There was this passage where they had this carefully controlled feedback whipping away at the patrons' ears which I kinda liked, mainly cus it was ha ha seeing people wincing away, but then I got bored and my pint got empty.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow. I've never been there, but I used to read Inspector Rebus books about carving-knife-castrations or what have you in Edinburgh, and Glasgow is supposedly like 10 times rougher than there, so it's gonna suck ballz hard now isn't it. Maybe they're trying to be ironic. Maybe they should try to be more entertaining.

This band managed what the other 2 didn't, in that they kept my attention for 3 songs, maybe 4 at a stretch. But then again they lacked both the stage presence and the musical range to put up a fight. For such a large group, half a dozen of them on a smallish stage, they seemed flat, timid, and, the blokes in particular, spectral. The two girls have nicely contrasting voices, one low and gravely, the other high and smooth, and these work really well together (although the blond lass was a bit flat for most of the night), especially when harmonising. And the chaps were decent enough musicians, the drummer knew his ass from his elbow which is normally a lot to ask of a sticks man, and the guitarists held their guitars the right way up, so that was a plus. But nobody said anything. They hardly looked at each other. They could have all been playing in separate booths in a studio for all the charisma they displayed. And they needed charisma, because their tracks seemed to melt into each other, and there was very little to differentiate the opening three from the final three. And the crowd recognised this - there was little more praise than a polite round of applause after each song, no call for an encore, and certainly no jubilant heckling.

People tell me that the album is really good, and yeah it may be. But that's so far from being enough that A.S.D.I.G. should be a bit ashamed that they squander their recent media attention, and their obvious talent, with such a bland performance.