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The Dears Give Indie Sermon

by Archives February 3, 2009

The Dears’ melodrama is palpable from the stage. Theatrical red and blue lighting accents the band’s presence and moody songs staggered against upbeat numbers result in ever-changing, bi-polar sets.
The show began this way at St. James United Church on rue Ste-Catherine last Saturday, with the Every Kid Choir swaying back and forth at a waltz-y pace, while lead singer Murray Lightburn delivered brooding lines in a gravely grunt from behind the stage.
And beyond the music and delivery, the venue itself was also dramatic: a massive church in downtown Montreal. The audience was seated in the pews, ready to hear the Dears’ sermon, preached by the newly formed line-up. What eased church-weariness was its sound – the acoustics of a large cathedral like St. James can produce some beautiful results.
While the Dears dove into a mix of old and new material, many songs performed from their fall release Missiles, the sound reverberated and bounced off of the huge cement pillars. At times, the band’s impassioned thrash became a bit grating, but it was still pretty sweet to see a rock band playing in a church, with the volume set to 12.
The crowd in the church had a large contingent of 30-year-olds, representing the decade-old band’s slowly aging fan base, seasoned with a few newer fans and even some senior citizens. Four songs in, Lightburn took a moment to address the audience, walking around the crowded platform stage with a wireless microphone. The room to maneuver on stage was limited with The Dears’ personnel consisting of two keyboardists, two guitar players, and of course Lightburn, a bass player and drummer.
This is not to say they were falling asleep at the altar. Lightburn led one song while brandishing a tambourine, which he viciously beat against his chest to the song’s rhythm, making some cringe. After another song, he tried to persuade the crowd to clap along to the beat, but the audience members could not follow to save their lives.
An obscenities-shouting d-bag in the crowd provided the night’s highlight, but Lightburn handled the heckler with seasoned expertise. He asked the “tough guy” to come up on stage and sing his own potty-mouthed rendition, and as security escorted the heckler out of the church down the main aisle, Lightburn said: “go in peace, my son,” rousing laughter from the packed pews. He then commented that after playing for 10 years, he “thought he had seen it all.”
After the drama, which the CBC cameras (who were there to film the performance) caught, the band returned to the stage for a two-song encore, leaving Montrealers feeling a little better about supporting a good cause, if not, at least for being in church on a Saturday night.
The show was billed as a benefit for Montreal’s Every Kid Choir, a joint project of St. James and the Montreal City Mission, whose mandate is to bring free education and music to disadvantaged children.

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