The last time The Dears were in town, they were gracing the stage of the Fox Cabaret shortly after their album Times Infinity, vol. 1. Now, two and a half years later, and after the release of Volume 2, they've returned to the same stage for an early show at the Fox.
Which, as a side note, I think the last 3 or 4 times I've seen The Dears here, it's been an early/curfewed show, and I'm really hoping that's not a trend that continues.
Anyway, I got to the venue just as opener Lou Canon was starting her set, out on stage alone with her keyboard and a projection screen of spooky eyes behind her. Dark synths and her haunting voice filled the room, with songs like "Coma" and infectiously catchy "Fever". She seemed to get a bit more comfortable on stage as the set went, joking with the crowd before dedicating the final song to her step-father.
Soon after that, the screen was filled with a giant image similar to the album cover of Times Infinity vol 2 -- Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak smooching -- and The Dears took the stage to a 16-bit sounding tune (which I swear I recognised but could not place).
They kicked off with the first song from the new album, "Taking it to the Grave" before an hour-plus mix of nearly their whole history; from the dark and moody "Who Are You, Defenders Of The Universe", to the deceptively peppy and upbeat "Whites Only Party", to the fragile "I Used To Pray For The Heavens To Fall", and one of my all-time favourites, "You And I Are A Gang Of Losers" swelling to a soaring ending.
Even after joking about having a heart-attack on stage, Murray was still as intense and emotional as ever while performing. Switching between electric and acoustic guitars, adding tambourine or harmonica, singing to the crowd to to his wife, everything he does draws you in. While perched on the edge of the stage for "Hate Then Love", it seemed like he was personally vowing "I swear it to you" to each and every person, and they all believed it.
After finishing off the set with the crowd singing along to "Lost in the Plot", Murray came out alone for a solo acoustic song, joking he would start once the people in the back "shut the fuck up" (leading to a short debate as to if that was more or less harsh than "get the fuck out"). First playing a gorgeous version of "Ticket to Immortality", written while he & Natalia were still expecting their first child, and then spontaneously played "There Goes My Outfit" while waiting for the band to return. Finally, they finished the night off with the perennial favourite and show-closer, "22: The Death of All the Romance". Clearly a favourite to many in the crowd (myself included), emotions poured from the band, throughout the crowd, and back, as the song built to a chaotic, apocalyptic ending, Murray leaving the stage saying the band loves us... times infinity.
Taking It To The Grave
I Used To Pray For The Heavens To Fall
Who Are You, Defenders Of The Universe
Whites Only Party
Here's To The Death Of All The Romance
All The Hail Marys
You And I Are A Gang Of Losers
Hate Then Love
Lost In The Plot
Ticket To Immortality
There Goes My Outfit
22: The Death Of All The Romance
It's been a couple years since Matt Mays last hit a stage in Vancouver, but with his recent album Once Upon a Hell of a Time out late last year, Mays returned to the Commodore.
Opening the night was his pal and Vancouver musician Dustin Bentall, with his dark roots-rock sound. I missed the first couple songs, arriving just as he started a cover of Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel" then going into some boot-stomping tunes like "Six Shooter" and "3000 Miles".
Bentall put on a strong set, and was definitely a good pairing to open the night.
Not long after, Matt Mays and his band took the stage. Starting off with "Faint of Heart" from the recent album, he played a nice mix of new and old throughout the night; from rockers like "Building a Boat" and "Indio" to more chill "Spoonful of Sugar" or "Ola Volo", a song from the new album about a local vancouver artist (who also provided the cover art for his new album).
Mays (and the whole band, really, which included his longtime friend and collaborator Adam Baldwin) were overflowing with passion, and that definitely spread into the crowd, as it was clear how much they loved to be performing. The crowd was hanging on every note, and often singing along, with songs like "Take it on Faith", or just yelling, in the case of "Travellin'".
After the ode to his hometown of Dartmouth in "City of Lakes", Mays ended the main set with a song that I would rank among my all time favourites (not just of Mays), "Terminal Romance". The crowd once more sang along with the heartwrenching lyrics as Mays poured his soul out on stage before momentarily leaving...
And of course coming back out again for another fan favourite, "On The Hood", as Mays jumped into the crowd to sing (and in an amusing moment, he ran to the backstage door to get back around to the stage... and was stopped & checked by the security dude at the door). That right there would have been enough, but they did one more encore-fakeout and came back out one last time for the old hit "Cocaine Cowgirl".
Mays has long been one of my favourite performers, with shows that are always full of raw energy. During the show, he promised it wouldn't be quite as long until next time, and here's hoping it's true.
Faint of Heart
Building a Boat
Spoonful of Sugar
Queen of Portland Street
Take It on Faith
City of Lakes
On the Hood