Monday, July 03, 2006

Ballad Of Humankindness

concert review: The Dears @ Harbourfront Centre - CIBC Stage(Toronto, Ontario), July 1, 2006

The Dears' Murray Lightburn @ Harbourfront: photo by Mike LigonMy planned double-shot of Canada Day indie rock goodness down at Harbourfront turned into a single shot as my friend, his cousin and I unfortunately missed Jason Collett's set. But so be it. I've seen him live before and I'll undoubtedly see him again. The last time I saw The Dears live was just over a year ago at their triumphant performance at the Phoenix in Toronto. With such lofty expectations, I couldn't help feel at least slightly disappointed at their show at Harbourfront a few nights ago.

The Dears were performing as part of Harbourfront's Power of Place festival. As Harbourfront's web site expresses, "A place is a physical location, a place is a state of mind." Montreal, was the place being spotlighted, obviously for it's impact on the music scene over the last several years. My companions and I took some seats about five rows or so from the back and considering that the first few rows of people in front of the stage were standing, we still had a decent view of most of the stage. With Mr. Murrary Lightburn dressed in a white suit, in stark contrast to the rest of the band, he obviously made the greatest impression on the audience. The band started out their set performing a series of new songs that displayed the more stripped down, no-strings/more guitar direction that the new album "Gang of Losers" supposedly takes. Of the bunch they performed, I really enjoyed The Smiths-y "Whites Only Party". I'd hope that Murray would introduce the name of the song just so I could gage the reaction of some people but no such luck. Other new songs performed later in the set included the emotive balladry of "There Goes My Outfit" and the sombre "Fear Makes The World Go 'Round", featuring a fantastic mid-song guitar lick. Other new songs were a little less memorable, and more rock, but I'll hold final judgement of the new batch of songs until I hear the album. However, from what I'd heard I'd say that a good chunk of the new songs are as good as anything they've written.

Of course, the old fan favourites were the most enthusiastically received. The swirling shoegazer-ish guitars and Morrissey-inflected vocals of "Lost In The Plot" made it's appearance after the selection of new songs which started the set. Other older favourites included sublime French-pop sounding "22: The Days Of All The Romance", "This Is A Broadcast", and the pseudo-funk of "Never Destroy Us", and then later on the stripped-down "Heartless Romantic" and the warm-sounding "The Second Part". While song-selection wise I was fairly satisfied, I did feel somewhat disappointed in the overall performance. In the past I'd not been too patient with some of The Dears' extended improvised live jams, mostly because I'd probably been standing a long time and my feet were tired. Past Dears' shows also featured terrific lighting and interesting stage projections which really immersed me into the experience. During the Harbourfront show I was sitting down for most of it and I would have preferred a little more improvisation and more creative lighting and some stage projections(and perhaps more stage banter from Murray) to spice things up. Otherwise, it felt like the band steam-rolled through their set. A fireworks display across the water made an appearance near the end of The Dears show. While it didn't have the sublime impact(partially because of the rain) like the fireworks did during Feist's show at Harbourfront last year, it was still a nice closing to a wonderful Canada Day. [PHOTOS FROM THE SHOW]
Just Keep Bloggin' and It's Not The Band I Hate... have better photos from Saturday night than mine.

The Dears will be performing at Toronto Islands on September 9th as part of the 2-day Virgin Festival. Public onsale at on July 8th at noon. Ticket info here.

Thanks to B(oot)log for providing mp3's of The Dears recent live session for BBC 6 Music's Gideon Coe program from June 23, 2006.

Update: inventor 77 has some photos of The Dears and Jason Collett sets.

Update: Thanks to RonniDP for posting over at YouTube, videos of The Dears performing "Whites Only Party" and "Nevery Destroy Us" from the Harbourfront show this past Saturday.

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