Imaginary Cities w/ Rah Rah @ Waldorf -- 07/12/12

One of my favourite new bands from last year is Imaginary Cities, so when I heard they would be stopping at the Waldorf on their recent tour, it was a no brainer. And then finding out that their Hidden Pony label-mates Rah Rah -- who put on one of my favourite sets at NXNE -- were opening, well that just put the proverbial icing on the already delicious cake.

The night started off with another Manitoba band, Federal Lights. They were a perfectly acceptable opener, with upbeat pop-rock that fit well with the other bands. They wore a lot of influences on their sleeve, and while they were a decent band, they weren't really anything too memorable.

Next up was Rah Rah, whose seven members packed the small stage of the Waldorf. They started off with a new song, "Art and a Wife" and for the next half hour they filled the room with an insane energy, and great harmonies & group vocals. They had the crowd dancing from start to finish, to a few other songs from the upcoming album, The Poet's Dead, and singing along to old favourites like the insanely upbeat "Tentacles".
Throughout the set they were changing instruments, with Erin Passmore coming out from behind the drums to jump on the keys and allow her amazing voice to be showcased, alongside Marshall Burns and her brother Joel, and Kristina Hedlund also sharing vocals and going from violin to keyboard to accordion.
"Beaches" saw a couple members grab drumsticks and add to the percussion, rapping on not only the drum kit and cymbals, but various parts of the stage, and after the beautiful "Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel" they ended the set with a huge bang, the one-two punch of "Breaking Hearts" and "Arrow", throwing three inflatable letters -- an R, an A and an H -- to the crowd, smashing a small pinata full of candy, and ended with a burst of confetti.
Their set was pure fun, and they can't come back to Vancouver soon enough.

That would have been a satisfying show right there, but there was still Imaginary Cities to come. The Winnipeg band may not have matched up in raw energy, but still put on an amazing set. They have a great chemistry, particularly between Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas, and especially for a band that is still relatively young. Marti's amazing and enchanting voice was punctuated by her stage presence -- dancing and jumping around with infectious enthusiasm -- and combined with Rusty's amazing musicianship, they put on a truly captivating set.
The band hit a lot of their first album, Temporary Resident, including a couple of my favourites; "Ride This Out", which starts soft and then explodes into a frantic ending, and the soft and heartbreaking "Where'd All The Living Go". They also did their cover of Cake's "Mexico" before a couple new songs, teasing recording their second album soon, and "ending" the set with the infinitely catchy "Hummingbird".
They came back out for the usual encore, visibly overwhelmed by the support they had from the packed Waldorf, with a sweet song called "True Love", written by Rusty for his new wife, before capping off the night with the perfect closer, "That's Where It's At, Sam".

It would be tough not to be overshadowed by Rah Rah, but Imaginary Cities more than pulled it off with an amazing set, for what may be the best double bill of the year.

Chasing the Sunset; Temporary Resident; Say You; Marry the Sea; Ride This Out; Cherry Blossom Tree; Calm Before the Storm; Where's All The Living Go; Mexico [Cake cover]; Bells of Cologne; Water Under the Bridge; Hummingbird.
(encore) True Love; That's Where It's At, Sam.