Tokyo Police Club
April 23 2011
Click here for more concert photos taken by: Mhelanni Gorre
It's another Saturday at the Commodore Ballroom and all the hallmarks of a great night of live music in one of Vancouver's premiere concert venues are present and accounted for. Beer chills in an a overflowing cooler strategically placed next to the merchandise table. A horde of young diehards have already staked their claim to floorspace as close as humanly possible to the stage a good hour before the show is set to start. Poorly concealed plumes of fragrant marijuana smoke drift lazily from the dance floor. Usually the pot smokers wait for the crowd to thicken before lighting up, but a handful of eager beavers seem hell bent on starting the fun a little early. Security or no security. On stage Roadies and techs glide across the stage in a flurry of activity. Before too long the tell-tale blackout curtains slowly begin to lower and the lights dim.
The first opener to take the stage are relative unknowns Dinosaur Bones. An alt-rock band from Toronto who recently released their first album (My Divider), this was their first time playing Vancouver. The motley collection of lanky, shaggy haired hipsters who take the stage certainly don't look like much. However their unassuming appearance masked something intriguing. The sombre voice of Vocalist/lead guitarist Ben Fox is both powerful and compelling. A special nod of the hat goes to the bass of Branko Scekic. It had a slight hint of funk which put a nice spin on the familiar indie-rock sound. The crowd was as pleasantly surprised by the admittedly brief set as I was and gave Dinosaur Bones a warm reception.
Next up were Vancouver folk-rockers Said The Whale. While talking with my fellow concert goers I was surprised to learn that a fair number of the crowd had actually turned out to see them over Tokyo Police Club. Having never listened them before I wasn't sure what to expect. What I heard blew me away. Clearly excited to be playing for their hometown audience the five piece had fun with their time on stage. This exuberance was catching and Said The Whale quickly had the Commodore crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. The audience needed no prompting to participate, clapping loudly and singing along to favourites like “Camilo” and the Stan Rogers-esque “False Creek Change”. Bassist Nathan Shaw even took a moment to chug a Smirnoff Ice handed to by an audience member in the customary one knee pose. Upbeat and high energy, Said The Whale alternated smoothly between electric and acoustic driven songs. All of which were incredibly catchy. The two part vocals of guitarists Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft were well harmonized and when keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown occasionally joined in her sweet voice melded nicely with the others. Having played their hearts out, Said The Whale took a modest bow and bounded off stage to the boisterous applause of the crowd. With only a thirty minute set, Said The Whale positive attitude and tight performance had done the trick. Though they could have easily stolen the show, Said The Whale did what any opener worth their salt should: rev up the crowd and then graciously step aside so the main act could build upon that momentum.
And Tokyo Police Club is a band that knows how make the most out of momentum. Already worked up by two superb opening acts, the crowd were eager to keep going. A loud “TPC” chant began to carry across the din of the crowd. Behind me a rather inebriated fan whipped off his shirt in the excitement. The band however started off their set with the slow humming keyboards of “Favourite Food”. This quiet prelude built the anticipation for vocalist/bassist Dave Monk's appearance which was greeted by raucous cheers. Once the song's tempo picked and the rest of the band came in, TPC never really slowed down. Which is good because they are at their best when going full tilt. The few slow moments were used to either segue to a rambunctious track like “Bambi” or to encourage audience participation, as was the case for “Tessellate.” This brisk pace was damn effective at keeping the crowd consistently entertained and glossing over the fact that a great many of TPC's songs sound very similar. You forgive them this sin because you're having so much fun. I also noticed that TPC's lighting setup, though rather simple, was similarly effective. During moments of quiet or building tension, white spotlights converged to silhouette the band. Then when TPC picked up the tempo, the spotlights began to twirl, the stage was bathed in coloured light and we in the crowd were briefly blasted by bright flood lights. The sudden change from high contrast, low intensity to incredibly bright and colourful is dazzling. It disorients you just long enough for crowd psychology to take effect. Before you know it you're clapping and jumping because everyone else is.
TPC fans would not have been disappointed with the set list. Most of their well known hits made an appearance. Renditions of “In A Cave”, “Graves” and “Tessellate” were particularly good. As was the closing number “Your English Is Good”. Monk's melancholy vocal style is distinctive and oddly sympathetic. The band's performance was excellent, with nary a slip up or odd pause. They are all very talented but keyboardist Graham Wright deserves a particular mention as he frequently alternated between guitar and the keys without missing a beat. While I doubt TPC's particular brand of pouty indie-rock would do very well in large arenas, in a mid-sized Venue like the Commodore they are at home. An intimate environment is definite must for these guys to maintain the crowd's interest and enthusiasm. The show, while not awe-inspiring or moving, was very entertaining. The only real low point for me was the encore. Joined by a man in a Cat Costume playing tambourine, members of both opening acts and strangely K-OS, TPC played only one song: a rock-rap cover of Kanye West's “Runaway”. None of these gangly, pasty white suburban rockers should be rapping and K-OS was either drunk, tired or sick because his performance was disappointing. He spent most of the song simply wandering around stage. At one point he half-heartedly tried to beat box but quickly gave up. He also briefly rapped, but that too was extremely lacklustre. It was an absolute let down and a piss poor way to cap off an otherwise fun evening of good music.