Brasstronaut @ Rio Theatre -- 06/02/12

The first time I saw Brasstronaut live, I knew that one day I wanted to see them at a soft seat theatre venue. Something about their dense, orchestral sound just seemed like it would be a perfect fit. Last year I got a tease of that when they opened for Mother Mother at the Vogue, but I was very excited when they announced that their hometown show, in support of their new album Mean Sun, would be at the Rio Theatre.

Opening the show was Útidúr all the way from Iceland. The eight piece band was deeper and more eclectic that the usual orchestral folk-pop sound, with numerous influences, including a hint of gypsy-rock and even a bit of a Spanish flair in a song. But it never seemed like a jumble; it all came together beautifully. Even the vocal styles of the two lead singers, Gunnar Örn and Rakel Mjöll, were quite different, but meshed together very well.
The set had a great "flow" to it, with the band starting with some of their softer, lighter songs and then building in energy, until they reached a cacophonous ending. Highlights included "Words Are Moving Slow" and the lilting "Fisherman's Friend" in which they urged people to get out of their theatre-seats and dance, and got a growing crowd up at the front of the stage to do just that.
The band also had a great presence and infectious energy. With broken, but understandable English, they seemed genuinely excited to be playing, mentioning that it was one of the biggest shows they had played so far, and even pausing to get a picture of the crowd.

Not long after, the the six members of Brasstronaut took the stage, their name emblazoned on the curtain behind them. The stage was dimly lit, with the band often in silhouette as they made good use of the movie screen behind them, projecting imagery throughout the show; sometimes random patterns, sometimes a little more elaborate, like a sunset over an ocean for "Mean Sun" or space imagery for "Moonwalker".
Starting the set off with the upbeat and aptly named "Bounce", they hit on a lot from their new album Mean Sun, with Edo Van Breeman's haunting vocals and the band's intense, layered sound filling the theatre.
They had a bit of a technical snag early on, but it was soon solved and their hour-and-a-half long set went off without a hitch, with highlights including the deceptively heartbreaking "Slow Knots", the punchy "Falkland", and guitarist Tariq Hussain taking over vocals for the soft and eerily-beautiful "Moonwalker".
Rakel from Útidúr was out to help out the vocals for "Mixtape", which built to an intense ending, and was followed by one my my favourite songs, "Hearts Trompet", also starting soft but building to a grand climax, with drummer Brennan Saul showing off his immense talent by the end.
They finished the main set with "The Grove" and were joined by the members of  Útidúr for the first song of the encore, "Opportunity", before Edo asked to bring the lights down for a sleepy time, lullaby song to end the night. The lights dimmed as much as they could as they launched into "Old World Lies", and Sam Davidson quietly leaving the stage part way through, only to reappear in the back of the theatre, softly playing his clarinet and slowly making his way back to the stage for a beautiful ending.

It was a magnificent show, probably the best I have seen from the band, and they were incredibly appreciative of the support of the sold out crowd. I can not wait until the day when Brasstronaut headlines the Vogue, or even the Orpheum -- two venues the band's sound deserves.

Bounce, Mean Sun, Falkland, Moonwalker, Slow Knots, Francisco, Mixtape, Hearts Trompet, Requiem for a Scene, Fossil, The Grove.
(encore) Opportunity, Revelstoke Dam, Old World Lies.