Chad VanGaalen @ The Rio Theatre -- 10/15/11

Two years, to the day. That was the last time I had seen Chad VanGaalen live; which is, of course, far too long. He was even playing at the same venue as last time, the Rio Theatre, which this time had sold out. And even though there were many other, out-of-town shenanigans this weekend, I wasn't going to miss this.

Vancouver's Flash Palace was opening the night, with an instrumental set of melodic, ambient, post-rock. The layered songs all kind of flowed together, and they had an intriguing sound, but it was also a little... droning. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mind-set for it, but the band didn't have much stage presence, ether.
That being said, I was pretty interested in checking them out further, and at the end they mentioned they were recording a new album, with vocals, so I'll definitely be keep an ear out to see how that turns out.

And after a fairly quick turnaround, Chad VanGaalen hit the stage, adorned in an incandescent tie-dye shirt. There was a bit of a strange delay at the start, where the lights were down and house music off, but he was still setting equipment up; but he soon apologized and launched into the set, with his band soon joining him. He also apologized, early on, for his last few shows in Vancouver have which he thought have been strange and... less than good, promising to make up for them. His self-deprecation continued later on as he wondered why, exactly, we were all there (him and the band included), but later made sure we knew that he was grateful that everyone was there. As usual, his banter, and stage presence in general, had an incredibly awkward charm with some hilarious moments -- such as when they came back out for the encore Chad and his bass player riffed on possible replacements and attachments for a hook-hand.
Musically, the show was top-notch; probably the best of the three times I've seen him. The set focused on his new album, Diaper Island, with a few older songs, and a few I didn't recognize --  though given the sheer amount of b-sides he has, enough to release eleven albums (on cassette) in the near future, I wouldn't be surprised if they were new. Highlights included the gorgeous "Sara", after which he played a very "VanGaalen-ized" rendition of Happy Birthday in honour of his friend's birthday, and "Molten Light", which got a good amount of [well-deserved] recognition applause. He also showed off his incredible range, with the haunting beauty of "City of Electric Lights" to the bloodcurdling screams of "Freedom for a Policeman".
His shows in the past have always been interesting, unique and a bit eccentric, but always incredible, and this one was no different. There was some obvious improvisation in the set near the end, as they were clearly straying from the setlist, and after a short solo song, "Burning Candle", to "end" it, the band came back for the encore with another new song, and then went into a really weird and hilariously awesome cover of "Summer of '69". It looked like they were about to go into another song after that, but Chad spontaneously proclaimed that to be the perfect ending for the night.
And you know what? It kind of was.

(partial) setlist
Never Cut My Hair, Shave My Pussy, Do Not Fear, Peace On The Rise, Heavy Stones, Sara, (Happy Birthday), City of Electric Light, [mystery song], [mystery song], Replace Me, Burning Photographs, I'm A Witness, [mystery song], Freedom For A Policeman, Molten Light, Rabid Bits of Time, Burning Candle.
(encore) [New Song], Summer of '69