Japandroids live at Corona Theatre

Since the release of their 2012 sophomore opus, Celebration Rock, Japandroids have occupied a spot in the musical zeitgeist as one of Canada’s all-time greatest bands. These droids are manufactured in Vancouver, which is evident in the group’s repertoire of songs, which often namedrop geographical locations in British Columbia.

When Japandroids’ first chord rang across the stage of the Corona Theatre last week, the audience was instantly transfixed and didn’t divert their attention until the end of the 15-song set. The Vancouver natives kicked off their first Montreal performance in years with the title track off their latest release, Near to the Wild Heart of Life. Japandroids’ music operates on sheer kinetic energy, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that guitarist and vocalist Brian King’s vivacity on stage perfectly paralleled his playing and singing on the record.

Filling the venue to its absolute brim, the show was an amazing presentation of synergy formed between audience and performer. The crowd was moshing and singing along with untutored enthusiasm throughout the show. Such was the case for the performers themselves, who transferred this energy back and forth like wildfire. The energy was tossed to-and-fro from band to audience and vice-versa.

The Canadian icons were poised and confident.

King asked if anyone in the crowd was at the band’s Cabaret Mile-End show, which took place all the the way back in December 2012. A few zealous responses were scattered throughout the crowd. King devoted “Younger Us” to the dedicated few who attended that show.

The two fans fixed at the front of the crowd were sporting homemade “North East South West” baseball caps, which caught King’s eye. The titular song off the band’s latest effort, “Near to The Wild Heart Of Life,” was dedicated to those two, who seemed to be revitalized with new energy that somehow topped their initial gusto.

And of course, there had to be that one guy who, at every concert, yells out a request to play “Free Bird.” Not usually in the band’s lineup of songs, but the request caught the interest of King, who, for a brief moment, considered covering the song with his ill-prepared drummer, David Prowse, so that they could both botch the song together.

Japandroids rocking the night away.

The set ended on a particularly climactic note, with an especially stomping rendition of the band’s biggest anthem, “The House That Heaven Built.” There was no encore, but it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say everyone in attendance felt satisfied with King and Prowse’s performance.

Photos by Erin Walker


Nick Murphy live at MTELUS

The singer’s performance made the audience see double—literally

Playing for the first time in Montreal under his new moniker, Nick Murphy, formerly known as Chet Faker, delighted his fans with a riveting concert last Friday. It was a performance that managed to blend his past, subdued records with his new, eclectic persona.

Chet Faker and Nick Murphy may be the same person, but they are two very different beasts. In five short years, Murphy’s sound and name metamorphosed from the moody and sensual tracks of Thinking in Textures to the bass-heavy, electronic tracks of Missing Link. Making a cohesive concert out of an extremely varied discography is no easy feat. But that’s exactly what fans were treated to.

The opening act consisted of techno music from Heathered Pearls and Montreal’s very own Charlotte Cardin. These performances consisted of an unexpected mix of electro and slow, grinding music, respectively. In retrospect, the first part of the show was a very good preview of what was to come.

Murphy started his set with new songs like “Your Time” and “Fear Less,” which were perfect choices to heat up the somewhat unenthusiastic crowd. From there, he moved on with fan favourites “1998” and “Talk is Cheap,” which were greeted with ardent acclamation. Combining his performance finesse with a fervent, on-stage charisma, Murphy, with sweat dripping from his long hair and beard, seemed in complete control.

Despite incorporating a plethora of different sounds, the concert never felt disjointed. The set list was crafted in a way that allowed the crowd and Murphy to breathe during calmer songs and then erupt with energy during the more bombastic pieces. The contrast in sound, which could have tanked the whole show, turned out to be one of its strongest assets.

Unfortunately, the sound quality wasn’t up to par with the performance. Too often, Murphy’s voice was almost impossible to hear because of the overpowering bass of the backing track and synth. This happened mainly during his more recent tracks, as they are typically more vivid in sound. It’s a shame; Murphy’s mellow voice is one his trademarks.

Choosing to drop his stage name and completely revamp his musical style was quite a risky move. Without very dedicated fans, his career could really have taken a hit. But, as two sold-out nights in a row clearly demonstrate, Nick Murphy has a very loyal fanbase.

His latest EP may have been greeted with mixed reception. But, after such a strong performance, hindered only by a few technical snags, the fans can now rest assured: Chet Faker may be gone, but Nick Murphy is here to stay.

Photo by Lyes Mahouche


Sheer Mag live at La Sala Rossa

Last Friday, the Philly band delivered a refined performance that felt inherently punk.

Shuffling casually on stage and picking up his guitar with no acknowledgement or nod to the audience, Kyle Seely launched Sheer Mag’s Montreal performance with a series of crunchy guitar chords that would have fit snugly on any AC/DC album.

The band’s performance at La Sala Rossa on Sept. 1, in support of its new record, Need To Feel Your Love, was brimming with colossal riffs and bruising political flare.

The audience’s anticipation was apparent. Before the show, there was little to no room in front of the stage, and the banter was kept to a minimum. This set the tone for the rest of the night.

Ignoring any sort of mindless pretense, pauses between songs were reserved strictly for the audience’s passionate cheers. Drummer Allen Chapman played in front of a banner that displayed Sheer Mag’s endearingly dated logo. That was about the extent of the show’s production value—no flashy flourishes, no glitzy showmanship, just uncompromising rock-and-roll swagger.

Throughout the performance, Sheer Mag aimed to cram its ambitious sounds into a short, yet unyielding 45 minutes, combining all the attitude with riffs ripped straight from Thin Lizzy’s songbook. It was a perplexing mix to witness, sure, but this is revivalism we’re dealing with. And yet, it’s revivalism edged with a brawny and confident type of artistry that feels both honest and bold.

Sheer Mag’s crux, despite all their vintage 70s adornments, is keeping its sights fixed firmly on the future. While “Button Up” pushes at breakneck speeds with a blast of fiery Southern rock and harmony-laden melodies at the forefront, it remains an anthemic protest song about refuting societal oppression. “I know they don’t like the way that I talk / Don’t like the way that I walk,” sings vocalist Tina Halladay. The lyrics act as a comment on the backseat role women have historically played in rock music, especially in the 70s. Sheer Mag’s army was the denim-clad misfits assembled at the front of the stage, grooving uniformly throughout the night.

The show wasn’t all politics, however. “Nobody’s Baby” counteracted the band’s raw, firebrand politics with glam-sensible power-balladry. “Meet Me In The Street” was a call to arms, with Halladay’s prickly vocals consistently roaring through like sandpaper. All the while, her lyrics emphasized the importance of compassion and empathy in a bleak, unforgiving world.

Typically, you wouldn’t think to mesh 70s proto-metal aesthetics with a biting political agenda—but that’s what makes Sheer Mag such an exciting project. The band inverts rock and roll expectations by churning out muscled guitar music that resonates with elements from then and now.

With a swarm of primal energy leading its performance, Sheer Mag’s sound is more closely associated with a classic rock radio station than a DIY punk outfit. Still, they cast off any and all expectations, pairing lo-fi textures with studio-polished 70s rock. This band has rooted itself in the very fabric of rock and roll and revamped it to a vehicle of escapism for misunderstood rockers.



March 22 live blog recap

[View the story “The Concordian at March 22” on Storify]

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