The first time I saw July Talk live was on this very stage, at the Commodore. They were opening for Matt Mays, I didn't really know who they were, but I was instantly blown away. In the three years since, I had seen them a few more times, but it seemed always as the opener, never headlining a show. Until now, as they returned for the first of TWO! sold out shows back at the legendary Commodore Ballroom.
With them on tour was Dartmouth's Adam Baldwin -- another friend of Mays -- as opener. Baldwin has a very East Coast Rock sound, playing songs off his latest album No Telling When. Highlights included the high energy "Battlescar", the motivating "Daylight", and my favourite of the set, an older song "Burning Man" which starting soft and building to an incredibly chaotic wall of sound. And it all came to a close with a fun cover of Talk Talk's "It's My Life" to finish out the set.
Baldwin had a great emotional intensity on stage, with strong songwriting behind the rockin' songs, and I am already looking forward to the next time he's on this side of the country.
After the break, it was the five members of July Talk taking the stage, walking out to the familiar crunchy guitar of "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!" from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (as if I wasn't already won over enough by them). Fronted by the duelling vocals of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, with guitarist Ian Docherty, bassist Josh Warburton, and Danny Miles on drums, the lighting almost making it look like the band was in black & white, fitting for them.
They kicked off with the first song from the new album Touch, "Picturing Love", Peter's gruff rasp with Leah's sweet yet powerful voice blended magnificently over the whiskey-soaked bluesy rock 'n' roll from the band. And it's not just their voices, their on-stage chemistry together is second to none, both getting in each others faces (sometimes literally) or Leah draping an arm around Peter. They both also went into the crowd; Peter to crowdsurf while playing guitar, and Leah stealing hats and kissing hands from the front row.
Their set featured a range from their new album and self-titled debut. Many of the older songs had people singing along, like the manic "Guns + Ammunition" and "Summer Dress". Other highlights included my favourite off the new album, the sexually charged "Lola + Joseph"; a bit of a more low-key and haunting tune "Strange Habit"; and "Headsick" which the dynamo Leah introduced by screaming it was a song about "losing your goddamn fucking mind!!!"
After a solid hour, they brought the main set to a close with "Paper Girl" before the requisite encore (not that the crowd wasn't clamouring for it). This time the stage was bathed in red light for the slow burning title track "Touch" before one last explosive song, "The Garden" to leave everyone's ears ringing.
Each time I see July Talk live, I am more impressed by their incredible energy. Even though their second show tomorrow night is sold out, if you have any way of getting in to see them, I would suggest you do it.
Blood + Honey
Johnny + Mary
Lola + Joseph
Guns + Ammunition
Now I Know
Beck + Call
Push + Pull
I've Rationed Well