Friday, May 1, 2009

The Dears Live In Toronto : Like Poutine Without The Gravy

Billy Bob Thornton was run out of Canada for being a jackass on CBC Radios Q. Angered at the interviewer for no sensible reason he said that Canadian audiences were like “mashed potatoes without the gravy”. The audience at his show in Toronto that night responded with boos and he cancelled the rest of the Canadian run of his tour. At the Dears concert on April 30 at the Mod Club in Toronto I realized he may be a heatbag but he is probably right.

At their Mod Club show, Lightburn, well known for his spasticity, was fairly subdued. Some of the blame may be due to a stolen bus. As they prepared to depart Montreal to begin their tour they discovered that their tour bus had disappeared. While the thieves took a bus on a joyride around the streets of Montreal the Dears had to rent a van. With their equipment untouched they took the 6 hour drive to Toronto and the show started on time.

The show began with recorded music and I was startled by a bump. I turned around to start a fight and saw Lightburn singing and moving through the crowd. He was barely noticed until he reached the front of the hall. As threw his mic in the air all that could be heard was silence. A good clue to a bad crowd is when no one sings along to the complicated lyrics “ooooooooooh ahhhhhhhhh oooooooooooh”.

With at times three guitarists and two keyboards, the band had a lush, overlapping sound. The only issue was the occasional thump emanating from the Latin club located below the Mod Club. The band whipped through a 90 minute set covering their later career including highlights “Lost in the Plot” and “Hate Then Love”. Even as the first show of a tour with a new (old) guitarist and a recent lineup change recent band they sounded tight and prepared. The same could not be said for the crowd who responded pavlonian style when they heard the word “Toronto”.

With the end of a two song encore I left the Mod Club wanting to revisit some of their songs. As I came out not hating them, I would consider the show a success.

The Dears, for those who don’t know or have never heard of Wikipedia, are a Canadian Indie Rock Band. They are led by the husband and wife team of Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak. Lightburn, the lead singer is a black guy with a Jewish name who sounds like Morrissey. Alongside the Arctic Fire, they were one of the leaders of the Montreal music scene which emerged in the early part of the decade.

Their world view can be best described by their optimistic album titles like “No Cities Left”, “Gang of Losers” and “Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique”. As a black guy from Montreal who sounds like Morrissey, I’m pretty sure Murray had a hard time fitting in. They can be described the depressed love child of The Smiths & Radiohead who can still rock.and Since their debut release “End Of a Hollywood Bedtime Story” in 2000, they have always seemed on the cusp of world domination, but have settled well into indie rock success considering the lack of support from the major Canadian media.

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