It's been a little over ten years since the first time I saw Said the Whale, playing at the Biltmore Cabaret. Since then I've seen them at nearly every Vancouver venue, but this summer they aimed big for a show at [un]arguably the most beautiful venue of the city, Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.
Opening the night was Jaden Bricker, who won a contest Said the Whale was running for high school musicians and bands to open the show. Unfortunately I only caught the last couple of his songs, but his strong vocals and catchy indie-pop songs made me wish I (as well as Translink) had gotten my act together and been there 15 minutes earlier.
Next up was The Beaches from Toronto, who hit the stage hard. All four members had a high energy that barely faded as they cranked through a set of frenetic songs like their sultry single “T-Shirt”. Bassist Jordan Miller's powerful vocals filled the park, as her voice was occasionally joined by guitarist Kylie Miller and Leandra Earl on keys — all held together by the strong drumming of Eliza Enman-McDaniel.
Mid-way through the set, they did dial the energy down a bit with a a chilled out cover of “Kids” by MGMT, but were right back into with a banger “Desmonda”, from their latest EP The Professional. After a few more new songs, they launched into “Boy Wonder”, which built to a big finish and transitioned into “Late Show”, somehow topping everything that preceded it to end off the set.
I really only knew The Beaches in passing before this night, but seeing them live definitely made me want to dive in to their albums.
Then at 8:30 sharp (gotta love curfew shows) Said the Whale took the stage, flanked by a large pair of their Cascadia flags and a giant viewmaster slide in the back, Lower Mainland landmarks as the frames. Ben Worcester kicked off with "Gambier Island Green" before Tyler Bancroft and Jaycelyn Brown joined him on the now-classic “This City’s a Mess”, as their set spanned their entire career. From the ridiculously upbeat “The Light Is You” to the moody “Step Into The Darkness” and the hard hitting & raucous “Record Shop”, the set ran through hit after hit. And of course, they had to play "Black Day In December", a song about the windstorms which knocked down a good number of trees in Stanley Park.
The band was visibly blown away by the support of the fans, friends, and family, thanking everyone multiple times for being there and even shouting out some friendly faces in the crowd (Ben having to stop himself before he spent the rest of the set saying “Hi” to people). And they even had a few of those friends join them on stage throughout the night; the actual Camilo The Magician came out during his eponymous song for a quick illusion, a group of choir kids from Maple Ridge Secondary & Jaden Bricker sang backups on "Wake Up", and then stayed on stage for "False Creek Change", the sea shanty that also had CBC Radio host, lead singer of The Smugglers, and STW Superfan Grant Lawrence join on vocals as well.
After over an hour, they drew the main set to a close with a pair of hard hitting earworms "UnAmerican" and "I Love You", before of course returning just before the 10pm curfew. From there Ben once again silenced the crowd for the heartbreaking "Curse of the Currents" which had many singing along, and finally a very fitting song to cap everything off, "Goodnight Moon" exploding into a joyous ending for the evening, proclaiming that they had “so much love”.
I’ve seen some of my favourite shows (and some of my favourite bands) in Malkin Bowl, but Said the Whale is the first band I’ve seen play where everything just makes sense for them to be there. A band that shows their hometown love both in song and outside their music (as seen in their recent cookbook) surrounded by “Stanley’s Soldiers” couldn’t have been more fitting.
Gambier Island Green
This City's A Mess
Camilo (The Magician)
Step Into The Darkness
Black Day in December
The Light Is You
Oh K, Okay
False Creek Change
Broken Man [incl. Whole Wide World by Wreckless Eric]
The Gift of a Black Heart
Emerald Lake, AB
I Love You
Curse of the Current