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.
Centre of My Universe
I Give Up
There Goes My Outfit
Ticket to Immortality
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