The Zolas w/ The Belle Game @ Rio Theatre -- 11/16/12

It's been quite a while since The Zolas played their last "proper" show in Vancouver. There have been a few free shows scattered throughout the summer, but they were all missing half of the main duo, Tom Dobrzanski, as he was busy building his new recording studio Monarch Studios. But the band was back together at a sold out Rio Theatre for what was both their homecoming show and their CD release party, celebrating their latest album, Ancient Mars.

Opening up for them was another Vancouver favourite, The Belle Game. They were also supposed to be celebrating the release of their latest album, but it got delayed until next year. That didn't stop them from focusing most of the set on newer material, however, starting with the haunting "Ritual". Their rich, lush sound that was perfect for a theatre venue with the awesome and powerful voice of Andrea Lo filing the room; especially evident on "River", which was an amazing example of that power.
The six-piece was also joined by occasional-member Andrew Lee on trumpet (and tambourine) who got to show off on the explosive climax of "Sleep To Grow", and they ended their set with "Wait Up For You", which also built to a huge ending, and guitarist Alex Andrew solo-ing front and centre.

From the first time I saw The Belle Game -- on a small stage of a mediocre sounding venue -- I knew I wanted to see them in a setting like this, a soft seat theatre venue, and I have no doubt they'll only move on to bigger and better venues.

Ritual, Wasted Light, Keeps Me Up At Night, Blame Fiction, River, Salt + Water, Sleep to Grow, Wait Up For You.

It wasn't long before Zach Gray and Tom Dobrzanski took the stage with the rest of The Zolas, now a five piece with bassist Henry Alcock-White now on guitar. The set was heavy with the new album, opening with the lead off track "In Heaven", easing the crowd in with its soft beginning before rising in intensity.
The whole band had a great energy, but especially Zach, who has a strong stage presence; always full of energy, jumping around, and very personable, talking between songs as if just chatting with a friend and not a sold out theatre. Songs about lost love and heartbreak filled the set, and highlights include the extremely catchy and danceable "Strange Girl", as well as the big sing along to "You're Too Cool" -- which was either in the appropriate falsetto, or highlighted the gender ratio in the crowd -- and the dark yet bouncy "Knot In My Heart".
Near the end of the set, Zach climbed into the crowd and over the first few rows of seats to stand in the middle of a sea of people for "Escape Artist", and they closed out the main set with "Marlaina Kamikaze", the controlled chaos of the song bubbling over to a frantic ending. But then of course, there was the encore, first with Zach and Tom out alone for "Cold Moon", then getting the rest of the band back for the mid-to-post apocalyptic "The Great Collapse" to end off the night.

At a few points through the night, Zach expressed extreme gratitude (and a little disbelief) at the crowd, thanking everyone profusely for coming. But while it may have been a shock to Zach, it wasn't to anyone else, since The Zolas are more than deserving of the adoration.

In Heaven, Euphrates and Tigris, Strange Girl, Ancient Mars, Observatory, Local Swan, You're Too Cool, Knot In My Heart, Escape Artist, Marlaina Kamikaze.
(encore) Cold Moon, The Great Collapse.