Murray A Lightburn @ Fox Cabaret -- 03/07/19


If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you may know that The Dears are one of my all-time favourite bands. So of course I was looking forward to seeing singer Murray A Lightburn, hot off his brand new album Hear Me Out, return to Vancouver for a solo acoustic show at the Fox Cabaret.

Opening the night were a couple local acts, starting with Sam Lynch, who first took the stage alone with her guitar before being joined by Steph Chatman on violin. Her voice lilted over her soft, singer-songwriter vibes, and while some of the songs kind of had a similar feel to them, the standout of the set was the last song, which I didn’t catch the name of, but had a bit more intensity than the rest.

Next up was Jenny Banai, who I've been meaning to see perform for a while. With a darker, alt-folk sound, a lot of her songs simmered with intensity as her voice burst through. Highlights included the title track for her upcoming album, "Couch Walker", and "Water" building to an intense ending, with Banai's vocals looping over themselves. She also finished with another brand new song, which had me looking forward to the new album.

It wasn't long after when a besuited Murray A Lightburn approached a single microphone at the front of the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, and started with the gorgeous "Bellville Blues" from the new album. I've always thought Lightburn has one of the most powerful, emotion-filled voices in Canada, and it was immediately apparent on songs like heartfelt "Centre of the Universe" and "Anew".
The intimate evening also featured Murray telling a few short stories behind some of the songs, mixing in his self-deprecating humour with picks from not only his solo albums, but also a few favourites from The Dears catalogue ("favourites" being code for "the easy ones" he joked). "Lights Off" and “Ticket To Immortality” gained new life stripped down acoustically, and he poured his heart out on "Warm and Sunny Days" before shifting back to solo material, bringing the main set to a close with “When They See Me".
After making the audience work for it, he was back out for a couple more, starting with the backstory to “Whites Only Party”, where it was suggested he change the name, but Murray thought it was too funny to change — doing something others perceive as ill-advised because you think it’s amusing is something I can deeply relate to. And then capping off the night with one that ranks high on my nebulous "favourite songs" list, the heartrendingly powerful "You And I Are A Gang Of Losers". From the opening chords, I had a huge smile plastered on my face, and as Murray belted out the chorus there may have been a tear or two.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night, and before Murray left the stage, he thanked everyone profusely for coming. He was clearly extremely grateful for everyone showing up, and by the reaction from everyone in the room, the feeling was more than mutual.

Belleville Blues
Centre of My Universe
I Give Up
There Goes My Outfit
Ticket to Immortality
Lights off
Warm and Sunny Days
Fan Fiction (Ballad of a Genius)
When They See Me
Whites Only Party
You and I Are a Gang of Losers

The Dears @ Venue -- 03/05/11

I am going to come clean with you right off the bat. The Dears are one of my favourite bands. I hadn't seen them live in almost two years, and was more than a little excited for this show. It was an early show at Venue, which I both liked because I was able to get home early-ish (for I am apparently an old man), but also disliked, because I felt it cut the set short.

As it was a curfewed show with three bands, he first, The Tender Box, hit the stage around 7:20. There weren't too many people when they started, but by the end of their half hour set, there was a decent crowd. They had a pretty basic rock sound, with a high energy, but most of their songs sounded pretty similar. Two back to back songs even had the same "sing along to this part where we just go ooohh-ooooooh" template. Nothing terrible, and enjoyable enough to watch, but not too memorable either.

Next up was Eulogies. I had only heard one song prior to the show, and I liked it so I was intrigued to see them. I was won over, if for no other reason than the lead singer had a Fantastic Four guitar, but also at the incredibly catchy and well written songs. They had a sound that I immediately though to classify as "dark pop", even if that isn't a genre and makes no sense, but the songs managed to be equal amounts upbeat and intense. There wasn't much by way of banter, but the lead singer still had a charm and charisma to him, and did a good job of engaging the crowd. I will definitely be checking them out next time they're through town, and had I the monies, I would have picked up their new album. (But I will have to make do with it streaming from their website for now)

And then the lights dimmed, and "Love me Tender" started to play. At first I wasn't sure if it was The Dears intro music or not, but as the song ended, they hit the stage and launched right into it with the first four songs off their new album, Degeneration Street. "Omega Dog" was brilliant live, with Pat Krief's amazing guitar work melting faces early on and "Tigerblood" (as Murray introduced it), bound to be one of my favourite songs of the year, was incredible live. They went on to play a good cross section of their material, with "Whites Only Party" getting everyone dancing, and Natalia's vocals coming to the forefront with "Crisis 1 & 2". The pair of "Lost in the Plot" and "We Can Have It" were great sing-alongs, and it was nice to see the latter live, as that is more or less the song that hooked me on The Dears. (I had seen them open for Matt Good and liked them enough to get No Cities Left after, and by that song, track one, I was a fan)
There wasn't much chit chat, other than some thank you's and song intros, and near the end of the set Murray explained that since they had a curfew, they wanted to cram as much music in as possible. The "curfew" fact got a few boos, but Murray calmed everyone by quipping that the "shiny shirts" need somewhere to go, too. As the set came to an "end", with a couple more off the new album, there was almost no encore fake-out -- or at least it looked like Natalia was questioning it -- but indeed "left" anyway, for a moment, before came back out with two of my favourite songs, "You & I Are A Gang Of Losers", which was incredibly emotional live, but was somehow topped by the last song, "22: The Death Of All The Romance"
The song began with Murray getting the appropriate parts of the crowd to sing along to the gender specific lines, and by the chorus, he was down on his knees, facing his wife Natalia, vowing to "avenge the death of all the romance". It's hard to convey in text (or blurry cellphone pictures), but it was an incredible moment, and an unforgettable tableau.
After some incredible guitar work (and more melting of faces) by both Krief and Murray, the song ended with Lightburn crouched at the front of the stage, microphone in the crowd, looking emotionally drained.

Part of the reason I love The Dears so much is their live shows. The whole band is passionate, but Murray especially just exudes raw emotion; soaring hope, bitter heartache, and everything in between, he makes the audience feel it. While I think their last show here, at Richard's, was better* it was still an incredible show, and just cemented why The Dears are one of my favourites.
*though to be fair that one is one of my favourite live shows, ever

Omega Dog, 5 Chords, [Tiger]Blood, Thrones, Whites Only Party, Crisis 1 & 2, Hate Then Love, Lost In The Plot, We Can Have It, Yesteryear, 1854.
(encore) Gang of Losers, 22: The Death of All the Romance.

The Dears @ Richard's -- 05/30/09

In my life, I try not to go into anything with high expectations. Concerts, movies, albums, TV shows, video games... anything like that. That is not to say I am always a pessimist with low expectations, but I find it healthy to have no expectations for things. "He who expects nothing never will be disappointed" and all that. Sometimes, however, that doesn't work out. Like when I am going to see one of my top 4 favourite band, The Dears, live. At Richard's. With another band I really like, Jets Overhead. And a third band, Black Diamond Bay, which, I found out the day before, is the new band of ex-Dears member Patrick Krief. How could I not have high expectations for a show like this?

The "early" show started a little later than advertised with Black Diamond Bay hitting the stage a half hour after the advertised showtime, at 8. Consisting of the aforementioned Krief, another ex-Dear, George Donoso III on drums, a keyboardist that had some Weird Al hair, and a bassist with a darker Kyle Broflofsky do, the band vaguely reminded me of early Dears, though I'm not sure if that was more due to their sound, or the fact that half of them used to be. They had that very indie-retro sound that seemed equally influenced from brit-pop and blues. In fact, I am inventing a new genre for them right now: indie-retro-rock-brit-blues-pop. Krief wasn't much of a talker, saying hi and thanks and the sort a couple times, but for the most part let the music do the talking. And holy shit did it ever. Between his face melting solos and Donoso's incredible controlled-chaos style drumming, they absolutely blew me away. I think I even fell in love with Patrick Krief a little bit. If I had any problems with the set, it was that it was too short, with them only playing for a little under 40 minutes, but at the time it didn't actually feel that short at all. Needless to say I picked up their new album, and I can not wait to see them again.

Then after a quick turnaround, Jets Overhead took the stage. I had seen then a couple times prior, and am quite the fan of them, but I hadn't heard anything from them in a while, since their 06 bedut, Bridges, so while I hadn't really... forgotten about them, rather they just fell off my radar a little. Their 45 minute set consisted solely of songs from their upcoming album, out next week -- though I snagged a copy early, as they were selling them at the show! -- which was a little disappointing, but understandable since they are promoting that. The new stuff, however, sounded pretty awesome and in the same indie-trance-rock vein as their prior sound, but without sounding too similar. The best possible analogy I can come up with for them is that their sound is like sitting in the surf at the ocean. Sometimes calmly washing over you and gently ebbing away, sometimes crashing down on you and threatening to drag you out to with them. Even with the unenviable task of following Black Diamond Bay, they performed an excellent swt that had me excited to hear the new album. Still, though, I wish they had played at least one or two from Bridges...

Then finally, it was time for The Dears. They had one of the most incredibly opening to the show that I have seen in quite some time. Just after 10, the stage grew dark, the house music went off, and the prerecorded instrumental part of Savior, the final song off their latest album, Missiles, started up. Then, with everything still dark, Murray Lightburn's disembodied voice began singing softly and heartfelt. Where was he? Backstage? About to come out? Nope. He was at the very back of the club, behind everyone (or below us on the balcony) and slowly wading through the crowd towards the front of the stage. With a small flashlight in hand, illuminating himself, shining on everyone around him, he made his way through the crowd singing at and to everyone there. Soon after, the other six members of the band took the stage for the backup vocals of oohs and aahs, with the sold out audience joining in as well. Jumping back on stage near the end, the members grabbed their instruments for the finale of the song, then went right into Money Babies (the first single from Missiles) and Demons, also from Missiles. From there, they went back a bit, to their previous album playing There Goes My Outfit, with Murray giving some a raw, emotional performance of the song I thought he was going to breaks down right there on stage... and that wouldn't be the last time that happened, either. You & I Are A Gang Of Losers, one of my favourite songs was next, and then they went back even further with Lost In The Plot, which included a really cool new ending to the song, with it slowly fading out and ending almost acousticly, with just Murray & his guitar. Murray then took the opprotunity to thank everyone for coming and all that before going into a few more songs from Missiles, with Disclaimer being pretty great live and Crisis 1 & 2 highlighting Natalia Yanchak's amazing vocals in a "starring" role, and not just as backup vocals (Natalia being not only the only other surviving original member of the original lineup, but also married to Murray). Going back to Gang Of Losers, they played the higly energetic Whites Only Party, which at one point had a funny visual moment of Murray at the back of the stage, then the guitarist & bassist moving in front of him to block him, only for Murray to "shove" his way back out front. Hate Then Love had Murray running all over the stage, from the back to sing, singing to the people on the balcony behind them, to the front and then right back in through the crowd, followed by Meltdown In A Major where Murray broke out the keytar (awesome). They ended the main set after an hour and a half by dedicating the last song to Stars Torquil Campbell (and/or his young child) before going into another one of my favourites, Lights Off. And holy shit, if that wasn't one of the most amazing live performances I have ever seen. I was a little sad Pat krief didn't come back out and do his amazing guitar solo for the song, but the new guitarist did just an amazing, and then the ending of the song, was just absolutely amazing and insane and intense and raw... and then! about half way through the song, during the long instrumental part (it's a nine minute song) a gentlemen in all white jumped on stage to assist in the backup vocals, the oohs and aahs. That gentleman? Torquil Campbell! The song came to an end with Murray shaming Torq off stage with his powerful vocals (jokingly, of course) and left the crowd not only in awe, but roaring for more.
They came back, of course, with a No Cities Left-focused encore, but not before some tomfoolery. The normalls quiet Murray joked about getting into their time machine to go to 2050 before trying to get the crowd to silence for anticipation for the next song. I'm sure you can imagine how that went, as there was always one jackass ruining the moment. After a couple tries and some more joking around on stage, we finally got silence enough for a ten second countdown and then launching into the opening chords of We Can Have It. Followed by a brief acoustic verse from Expect The Worst/Cos She's a Tourist, they ended the night off with 22: The Death of All The Romance (yet another favourite of mine, and one of my favourite music videos of all time), which again, climaxed to an incredible energetic end of the show.

I know I use a fair amount of hyperbole when I talk about shows. Every show is incredimazing and are frequently my favourite or best of the year. But this show? From the amazing opening through the crowd, the incredible raw emotion of the performances (I swear, the band, but Murray especially, must be a wreck after each show), the absolutely sublime Lights Off, with Torquil being simply the preverbial cherry on top. This is a show that I will never, as long as I live, forget. It hasn't even been 12 hours since it ended, and it is already one of my favourite shows of all time. Favourite all around, shows, too, since I have to give both Jets Overhead and Black Diamond Bay their due. Just another reminder of why The Dears are, as I mentioned above, one of my top four favourite bands/artists/musicians of all time.

I also kept track of the setlist, which is as follows!

saviour, money babies, demons, there goes my outfit, you and i are a gang of losers, lost in the plot, berlin heart, disclaimer, crisis 1 & 2, dream job, whites only party, hate then love, meltdown in a major, lights off. (encore) we can have it, expect the worst/cos she's a tourist (single, acoustic verse, segue to), 22: the death of all the romance