Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Hidden Cameras, Gentleman Reg @ The Opera House, Toronto (December 5, 2009)

The Hidden Cameras @ The Opera House: photo by Michael Ligon
  The Hidden Cameras @ The Opera House: photo by Michael Ligon

Update [Dec 12/09, 3:27 pm]: Review posted below.

With transplanted Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb now living in Berlin, any chance to see The Hidden Cameras play live in Toronto is an occasion. Fortunately, the band's found the time over the last year and a half or so to get together to play in their hometown including the Pride Festival in 2008 and more recently an intimate record release show at Goodhandy's in Toronto in September, both of which I was fortunate to go to. Last Saturday, they ended a recent North American tour jaunt in support of their new album "Origin: Orphan" with a spectacularly fun show at The Opera House with their cohort Reg Vermue aka Gentleman Reg opening the show.

At one point during the set, Reg mentions the current tour then expresses that Winnipeg was "fun" with a chuckle prompting a fan to ask with a grin "what kind of fun?". Such was an indication of the looseness Reg exuded on stage in between performances of songs from his most recent album "Jet Black" and other past audience faves. Reg took sips of alcohol from a cup admitting he hadn't drank alcohol in about a three months, then expressed he was feeling a little drunk but in the end Reg and the band got the job done. The incestuous relationship that Reg has with his friends The Hidden Cameras (who he used to perform live with more regularly) resulted in The Hidden Cameras' Joel Gibb, Maggie Macdonald and Laura Barrett joining Reg for a few songs with some added instrumentation and vocals. Ex of The Organ, special guest Katie Sketch also came on stage to provide vocals. Continuing his giddiness, Reg introduced the band members then prompted the audience to clap more for himself. The set ended with members of The Hidden Cameras and other assorted friends lining up near the back of the stage on either side of drummer Dana Snell for a group dance-a-thon. I'll admit my newbie status to Reg's music [at the show, I picked up a copy of his album "Jet Black", as well as his CD compilation of his Three Gut recordings entitled "Little Buildings"], but under the radar for me, he no longer is.

It's not been too long since I've last seen The Hidden Cameras live, that being in September at Goodhandy's where the band performed their new album in it's entirety. Even in those cramped confines, they managed to squeeze in both a vocal choir and small horn section, although both relegated to that venue's balcony which was a interesting setup but a little physically awkward to spectators. Last Saturday, the band brought pretty much the same setup to The Opera House onto one stage, and when all components were actually on stage at one time, it was a pretty spectacular sight. As they did at their last show, The Hidden Cameras donned black hoods as they strolled slowly onstage in the dark during the ominous keyboard drone of 'Ratify The New', it's cacophonic climax leading nicely into the steadied rhythm and melody of "Awoo" track 'Follow These Eyes". Obviously the set focused heavily on the new album but the band squeezed a good selection of older tunes even reaching back to "The Smell Of Our Own" for the crystalline 'A Miracle'. As such it turns out, the ambitiousness of some of the newer material provided somewhat of a counterpoint to some of their older more stripped down indie pop, but in the end it was Gibb's vocals and melodic sensibility that truly tied it altogether.

It seems like the audience were split, even in the literal sense, about their enthusiasm for the band, with Gibb at one point pointing out that the right half of the audience[the left side of the audience from the band's perspective] were much more enthusiastic than other half. I myself was about centre and somewhat expressive about my appreciation. Given that I was close to the front of the stage, I never visually saw how the crowd behind me was acting, but I couldn't help feel like there could have been a little more enthusiasm at times. I remember past Camera shows when the crowd at the front of the stage would turn into an all-out dance party. Such a vibe didn't pervade the entire show this time, but with a little coaxing from Gibb at times and just seeing the collective party atmosphere onstage seemed to coax more of the audience to come out of their shells.

Although the performance of the new album's wasn't entirely sequential it did come to that for the main set's final three songs with the band's dance-oriented 'Underage', their brassy/choral 'The Little Bit' and their melancholy 'Silence Can Be A Headline'. When the band came back for a fantastic cover of Rihanna's 'Umbrella' (which actually had the audience singing along!) and the spirited 'Music Is My Boyfriend' (which ended up with a few of the band on the floor with the audience) it was just icing on the cake. A ghostly choir clad in gold sheets, a horn section, the female members of Reg's band in blond wigs and waving flags and a general giddiness amongst other things combined for a homecoming show that one should not take for granted. Come back soon 'Cams and let's do this again.

Photos: The Hidden Cameras, Gentleman Reg @ The Opera House, Toronto (December 5, 2009)
MySpace: Gentleman Reg
MySpace: The Hidden Cameras

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