Amy Millan @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 10/24/09

Another early show at the Biltmore last night, for them to do their weekly club night. This one ended even earlier than the previous ones, around 10:30, but none of the music seemed rushed. Both bands got a solid set, and it was even a little bit better than normal, cos it started rather quickly and there was a very short turn around time between the two bands. Of course, they only do this on the weekends, when I don't have to get up early the next day... on the weekday shows, they run as long as they feel... but I digress!

Opening band of the night was Bahamas, one of those bands where it's just one guy; in this case Afie Jurvanen. While not new to the scene at all -- he's worked with Great Lake Swimmers, Hayden, Zeus, Jason Collett, The Stills, Feist and more -- this is his first album himself, and first show in Vancouver. And you could tell he was a pro, cos from the minute he hit the stage, he owned the room. With a kind of bluesy folk rock and some awesome guitar skills, he was joined on stage only by a drummer and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand for his all too short set. His dry wit and faux arrogant swagger made for some hilarious stage banter, and his charismatic stage presence and overall attitude really reminded me of Dave Grohl. He ended off the set in the greatest way possibly, asking the crowd to help out singing the chorus of the next song, though not saying what it was... but after a couple lines, pretty much everyone recognized, and sang along to.... Purple Rain. That, my friends, was probably the single greatest live cover I have (personally) seen all year.
Needless to say, I picked up his album as soon as his set was done (purchased it from Jurvanen himself, no less).

Up surprisingly shortly after -- perhaps the Biltmore learned their lesson with Rain Machine -- was Amy Millan. She started the set off with an old gospel song and then launched into her own solo material, playing pretty evenly from both albums. She seemed pretty loose on stage, sharing stories, mocking the olympics and thanking us for coming when we "could have bought some weed instead". The most amusing story was either her in the washroom before hand, with a random girl next to her asking if she could "spare a square", not realizing it was her; or the time she, Amy Millan, met Amy Mann.
Her beautiful voice was definitely the focus of most of the songs, but she was backed with some pretty great musicians in their own rights (interestingly enough, no drummer). Her light and folksy songs and the chill atmosphere had the crowd pretty mesmerized from the moment she hit the stage.
One of the highlight of the show would has to be when a random member of the crowd asked to sing backups on Baby I and, amazingly enough, Millan said okay! The song was a little later in the set, but when she got to it, she invited the young lady on stage. That kind of thing could have gone either way, but I have to say, she was pretty good! And that was pretty great of Millan to agree to that. Most artists would have just said no or blown her off, but you just know that she made that girls night, year, life by allowing her on stage to sing with her.
Millan "ended" the set after about an hour, then came back out solo for the encore, but was quickly joined by special guest, friend and band mate... Torquil Campbell! They proceeded to do an acoustic version of the Stars song Calendar Girl, which was just superb. After the song, Campbell took a bow and Millan finished off the night with a couple more of her songs.
The only song I wished they would have played was Blue In Yr Eye, but other than that, it was a pretty awesome set. A pretty awesome night, overall, even, as Bahamas came very close to upstaging Millan!

And interestingly enough, this was the second show this year where Torquil popped up on stage for a surprise appearance. It's great living in (or near) a city where so many amazing musicians live.