Said The Whale @ St James Hall -- 11/25/09

I'm not gonna lie, the first time I saw Said the Whale it was kind of a disaster. It was back in March at the Biltmore for some Olympic thingummy, and the band that was on right before them was Karkwa, who were freaking amazing; one of the best live performances I've seen all year. And not only that, but I am positive they blew a speaker. So not only did the fine folks of Said the Whale have the unenviable task of following that, but the whole set was drowned out and muddy with horrible sound. However I persevered and after I saw them at the Fusion Festival, opening for Joel Plaskett Emergency, I was a fully fledged fan. So I was looking forward to this show, to see what they could really do live, with no blown speakers and a full headlining set.

First up, though, was another talented Vancouver artists (and friend of Said The Whale) Hannah Georgas. I hadn't heard too much of her, other than a few songs on CBC Radio 3, but I had liked what I heard. After last night, I gotta say, I am officially won over. Her backing band included of Spencer Schoening and Jaycelyn Brown of Said The Whale on drums & keys, respectively, and the set was surprisingly upbeat and energetic -- I think, for some reason, I was expecting it to be lighter and softer. She had a pretty great stage presence, maintaining a nice energy both on guitar and dancing around when just singing. She played for about half an hour or so, and the highlight of the set was easily the energetic Mama's Boy, a stupendous breakup song which proclaims "I guess it's easy to get over an asshole"
I think during the set she promised/teased a new album out next year, and I can't wait for it.

As for Said The Whale, they more that matched my expectations and hopes for the show. I never really realized it before, but the band kind of reminds me of Barenaked Ladies. Not really in sound -- other than both creating insanely infection and catchy pop music, there's not much similarity -- and not just because they are [or were :( ] both five member bands. But rather in the vocal play and harmonies between Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft. Their voiced not only blend together perfectly but they also support each other perfectly when necessary. Not to mention they're pretty funny, if not in song than in on stage antics and banter. I'm not saying they're Barenaked Ladies v2.0 or anything, but there were a few things last night that made me make the connection.
They started with a cool acoustic False Creek Change with all the members singing before launching into an energetic This City's A Mess. They kept up the energy the entire set, hitting almost all off their new album but also a great selection of older songs. They had some great stage presence and banter, too. Part way through the set, a box of donuts made its way on stage which resulted in the band sharing them by tossing them into the crowd, and a fantastic set of donut-related puns. Watch out, Dan Mangan. Watch out Tariq Hussein. There may just be some new Kings of the Pun in town.
Some of the musical highlights of their set included Puddleglum, a great song about Christmas in Vancouver (and that's saying something, since I usually don't care for Christmas songs). Hannah Georgas joined them on stage for BC Orienteering -- one of my favourites -- which was nifty, since she guests on the album. Gift of a Black Heart segued perfectly into another one of my favourites, My Government Heart, which was pretty fantastic live. They ended the main set with what might be my absolute favourite Said The Whale song, Goodnight Moon. It starts out slow and sweet, but ends with some incredibly joyous rocking out, which translated absolutely amazing live on stage. Also, it's kind of funny to see a grown man rock out with a tiny ukulele. That would have been a great way to end the show there, but they popped back out after a very short "encore-interlude", probably because they were being rushed to finished, and played a some more. They ended the night in an fantastic way, first talking about how they were breaking the 10pm noise curfew (it was 10:30 at that point) and had to be quiet... which led into an unamplified version of Curse the Currents, with Ben singing at the front of the stage without a mic or anything. It was a pretty amazing sight, to see the power of his voice, and the (almost) absolute silence of the crowd to hear him. A fantastic way to end a fantastic show.

The only problem, if I may rant for a moment, had absolutely nothing to do with Said The Whale, but rather the people both behind and beside us who, through both Hannah Georgas and Said the Whale, would not SHUT. THE FUCK. UP. If you want to have a conversation, go to a bar or a restaurant or stay home. Don't come to a live show and just talk -- at a regular volume, no less -- the whole damn way through. Next time that happens I am going to have to break out the Fist of Doom and punch some throats. That'll quiet 'em up.

setlist (as best I can remember... I am pretty sure there was a song I am missing in there, but for the life of me I can't remember/figure out what it was)
False Creek Change, This City's a Mess, Love is Art/Sleep Through Fire, The Banks of the English Bay, Puddleglum, Howe Sounds, BC Orienteering, Black Day in December, Emerald AB, Island Disappear, Out on the Shield, The Gift of a Black Heart, My Government Heart, A Cold Night Close to the End, [mystery song], Camilo (The Magician), Goodnight Moon.
(encore) Holly Ontario, Dear Elkhorn, The Light is You, Curse the Currents.