Whitehorse w/ Daniel Romano @ Commodore -- 1/26/13

About five or six years ago, I first saw Melissa McClelland as an opening act, and part way through her set she invited her husband up on stage to play a song with her. Turns out the husband was Luke Doucet, and it wouldn't be the last time the couple shared the stage. Sadly, I hadn't had the chance to see either of them live since then, either in their own solo shows or as Whitehorse, so I was very excited to hear they were starting their latest tour in Vancouver.
Add to that the opener of the night -- a gentleman I saw in Toronto at the NXNE festival, but was too tired to fully appreciate the set -- and it was sure to be a good show.

Leigh Eldridge Photography
And that gentleman was Daniel Romano. The former Attack in Black frontman has gone a much more country route in his solo material, which was evident before Romano played a single note. He took the stage dressed in a full on Cowboy Suit, covered head to toe in rhinestones, topped off with a cowboy hat.
With his only backup being Aaron Goldstein on pedal steel, the duo was at the edge of the stage, in front of the certain, and started off the set with "Time forgot (to change my heart)", with a very old school, traditional country sound. A lot of the set consisted of slow tempo, sad songs, but there were a couple upbeat numbers, like the upbeat "Chicken Bill"

As Romano brought the set to an end, he decided to have a little bit of fun with the last couple songs, first a cover of a Roger Miller song, and then their version of the oft-covered "When I Stop Dreaming" originally by The Louvin Brothers. Romano said the duo had only practiced it a couple times in their four-day van drive from Ontario to BC, and Goldstein stepped off the pedal steel to take over vocals.

While it was, overall, a little too Country for my personal tastes, I could still appreciate their talent. Both Romano and Goldstein were excellent performers, and it was apparent that a good portion of the crowd was there as much to see Romano as they were for Whitehorse.

Leigh Eldridge Photography
It wasn't too long after that the curtains parted and we caught a glimpse of the set, a few banners with a painted version of what I assume was Whitehorse (the city), before Whitehorse (the band) took the stage. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland first roused the crowd into singing the beginning of "Killing Time is Murder" before grabbing their instruments and kicking off the set.

It was only the two of them -- no backing band of anything -- and while they mostly stuck to guitar, or sometimes bass, there was also a keyboard, a kick drum & a floor tom, and an array of percussive instruments from a steel drum to maracas and even some pans to bang on. The couple used these to their full advantage, creating rich loops to continue on as they played, more often than not coming right to the front of the stage to share a microphone (when not using the telephone receivers on their individual mics for vocal effects).

The chemistry between the two was as amazing as you would hope, with the couple playing off each other perfectly-- both musically and with their banter. They went for over an hour, covering nearly their entire catalogue, which consists of songs written as a duo as well as some of their individual, older songs reworked. Highlights included Doucet's "Broken", about an ex-girlfriend (which brought on some joking and teasing) and McClelland's "Passenger 24", which started soft and slow before exploding with energy; as well as the dirty and badass "Achilles' Desire" and the beautiful "Mismatched Eyes" with the back-and-forth vocals, both off the latest album The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss.
Wrapping up the main set with "Jane", they came back with the soft and sweet "Night Owls" and capped off the night with their cover of Springsteen's "I'm On Fire", getting a large chunk of the crowd to sing along, and even continue the chorus after they had put down their instruments, taken a bow and left the stage.

Going into the show, I already knew that Melissa has a gorgeous voice and Luke is a fantastic guitar player, but I figured they would also have a backing band playing with them. I was not expecting it to be just the two of them, effortlessly building each song before the crowds eyes, with the help of their looping pedals. It was a fantastic show, and I wouldn't hesitate to see them next time they're in town.

Killing Time is Murder, No Glamour in the Hammer, Radiator Blues, Wisconsin, Emerald Isle, Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song), Broken, Devil's Got a Gun, Annie Lu, Out Like A Lion, Achilles' Desre, Passenger 24, Jane.
(encore) Night Owls, I'm on Fire [Bruce Springsteen cover].

Photos courtesy of Leigh Eldridge Photography