The Bonfire Ball w/ Jason Collett, Zeus & Bahamas @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 03/26/10

I don't even know where to begin.

For a while now, I've been yearning for a show where a few artists just took the stage together to play each others songs, especially after Monsters of Folk did the format so masterfully last year. Well, the Bonfire Ball was exactly what I was looking for. Jason Collett, Zeus & Bahamas, together in one show, not just with three different sets, but all taking the stage together, weaving together a three hour set comprised of all their songs (and more). With Zeus both touring with and backing Jason Collet on his last tour, and Bahamas (aka Afie Jurvanen) playing on both their albums, the format only seemed natural. I've seen each of these bands live before and each one I would gladly pay to see on their own, so a show like this? Awesome.

The night started off with Jason Collett hitting the stage alone for "My Daddy Was a Rock n’ Roller" before Zeus and Bahamas came out to join him for "Fire" and "Hangover Days". Bahamas took front and centre next for three songs, and then three from Zeus, with their first being the awesome "Kindergarten". The rest of the first half traded off Zeus and Collett every few songs, with "Bitch City", off Collett's new album Rat A Tat Tat, being great live, and "High Summer" having a pretty funny intro. Collett talked a bit about the differences between Canadian & American cultures (they just came back from a week touring in the States) and pointing out what the sign of a true Canadian is (the ability to make love in a canoe), a fact that tied into the song. That was pretty much the most banter for the whole show, which was a little sad; I especially missed Afie's stage banter, which is part of what won me over when I first saw Bahamas. He just oozes charisma, and was hilarious with his faux arrogance and attitude that almost reminded me of Dave Grohl. While he still still insanely charismatic, there was only a little banter.
Back to the set, though: while this wasn't the first time I've seen the new Zeus songs live, it is the first time since the album came out, so it was great to be familiar with them. "River by the Garden" and "Marching Through Your Head" were both superb live. The first half of the show ended with "Cornerstones", off the Sounds Like Zeus EP, which just tore the place down. Every time I've seen them (this will be the fourth) they just get better and better. And it's really cool to see them switching things up, as just about every song had a different configuration, with three of the four members switching off between the guitars, bass and keys, and all of them providing vocals. Very Sloan-esque of them.

I think I honestly could have left right then and been satisfied, but we still had a lot more show to go!

The second half began after a quick break with Zeus back out, with their insanely catchy "How Does It Feel?" (a slogan we decided was probably not a good idea to have on a t-shirt). They traded off for a few, with Collett's "Rave On Sad Song" being another highlight. Then there was a little of Bahamas' banter; before "What's Worse" he called out a guy who was being a little rowdy, then proceeded to sing the song to the girl he was with. There was also a great moment in the song where Afie and one of the members of Zeus had a nice guitar duel going. I can not wait until Bahamas is back for a headlining show of his own.
Collett had a bit of a love double shot with two newer ones, "Love is a Dirty Word" and "Love is a Chain", before one of my favourite Collett songs, "Charlyn, Angel of Kensington". Jason was, of course, insanely good live. This was my fourth time seeing him live (the other three times, interestingly enough, were all in '08) and I've never been disappointed.
Rounding out the second portion, Bahamas dedicated "Hockey Teeth" to a random couple who may or may not have been on their first date, and Zeus nearly blew the roof off with "You Gotta' Teller", before "ending", all together, with another of my favourite Collett songs, one which is always incredible live, "I'll Bring The Sun". The way the song builds to the conclusion, seeing everyone just go crazy on stage, it was just... wow. It blew the roof all the way off.

Then there was the obligatory encore, which was an all-cover-song set, and if you know me, you know I love hearing bands do covers live. First saw just Bahamas on the drums and Neil Quin of Zeus on the guitar for what may have been the best cover, R. Kelly's "Ignition". Done completely straight. Yeah, it was glorious. The rest of Zeus came out for their cover of Genesis' "That's All", then for his cover, Bahamas absolutely owned the room with "I've Never Found A Girl (Who Loves Me Like You Do)" by Al Green. I wouldn't be surprised if half the girls in the room fell in love with him that night, and the other half after that song. Collett pulled out some Rolling Stones for "She's So Cold", and the night ended, after more than three hours, with everyone rocking out to The Beatles' "Slow Down".

And to put the proverbial icing on the cake? Grant Lawrence and CBC Radio 3 were urging people to fancy themselves up, as if going to a real ball. So, of course, never one to pass up the opportunity to suit up, I went for it. And the cool thing is, so did a fair amount of others! Most of the Biltmore was still in the usual hipster-wear, but there was a group of us all gussied up. You could definitely tell who in the room was an R3 listener.

Three fantastic bands. A dream format. Cover songs. Suiting up. This was quite possibly a perfect show for me; it was one of, if not the, best of the year so far and will certainly be hard to top.

I managed to (mostly) keep track of the setlist. It's a bit of a doozy, so prepare for some scrolling. I also missed the titles of a few songs... they may be new, since I tried to match them with songs I know/have, but I also might just fail. If you know them, feel free to let me know so I can fill 'em in.

My Daddy Was a Rock n’ Roller (Collett)
Fire (Collett)
Hangover Days (Collett)
Your Touch (Bahamas)
Caught Me Thinking (Bahamas)
Be My Witness (Bahamas)
Kindergarten (Zeus)
I Know (Zeus)
Airplane (Zeus)
We All Lose One Another (Collett)
High Summer (Collett)
Greater Times On the Wayside (Zeus)
The River by The Garden (Zeus)
Idols of Exile (Collett)
Bitch City (Collett)
Long May You Love (Collett)
Marching Through Your Head (Zeus)
Cornerstones (Zeus)
How Does it Feel? (Zeus)
The Renegade (Zeus)
I Got You Babe (Bahamas)
Cold Blue Halo (Collett)
Lake Superior (Collett)
Rave on Sad Song (Collett)
Already Yours (Bahamas)
What's Worse (Bahamas)
[mystery song] (Zeus)
At Risk Of Repeating (Zeus)
Love is a Dirty Word (Collett)
Love is a Chain (Collett)
Charlyn, Angel of Kensington (Collett)
Out of Time (Collett)
Hockey Teeth (Bahamas)
Heavy On Me (Zeus)
You Gotta Teller (Zeus)
Blue Sky (Collett)
I'll Bring the Sun (Collett)
Ignition (r. kelly cover) (Zeus [Neil Quin])
That's All (genesis cover) (Zeus)
I've Never Found A Girl (Who Loves Me Like You Do) (al green cover) (Bahamas)
She's So Cold (rolling stones cover) (Collett)
Slow Down (the beatles cover) (all)