Alex Soria Memorial Concert Main Hall, Montreal QC — March 11, 2005

When Alex Soria of the Nils threw himself in front of a train last December, it was a tragic end to a tragic story full of false starts and dead ends. This show was determined to give Alex a more dignified farewell, one that reflected how much his music meant to his fans, friends and the city of Montreal. Ottawans Chris Page and Jim Bryson opened the evening with acoustic takes on "Daylight" and "When Love Puts on a Sad Face" before Ideés Noires reunited for their first show in well over a decade. That was followed by Los Patos, Alex's brief post-Nils, pre-Chino band that never recorded a note; even sadder when they turned in one of the evening's strongest performances on "When You're Not Around." Before Alex's other two bands reunited to close the evening, Ian Blurton took the stage for a rare solo set. Despite the trademark crunch and volume of his electric guitar, Blurton was in vulnerable emotional territory by covering Neil Young's "Don't Be Denied" and Hüsker Dü's "Pink Turns to Blue." Most of the chatty room was immediately silenced when Blurton introduced his final number, written that morning while hung-over after a night at Barfly with friends of Alex's. "Half A Song" was an empathetic ode from one peer to another, whose path took a drastically different turn. On a night that seemed determined not to wade in a "River of Sadness," Blurton's performance was genuinely tear jerking, not to mention downright classy. He was followed by a four-guitar Chino line-up and finally by every possible incarnation of the Nils: four rotating drummers, producer Chris Spedding on guitar, and Doughboys/Asexuals vocalist John Kastner fronting the band for most of the set. Before Kastner arrived, Carlos Soria howled his way through a few of his brother's songs in an understandable train wreck of a performance that was nonetheless fascinating and visceral. Watching loose cannon Carlos take ten minutes to tune his guitar explained a lot about the fate of the Nils. Once Kastner and Spedding were on board, the Nils truly sprung to life, with an all-too-perfect cover of Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears" thrown in for good measure. Carlos announced that this was the first time his mother and sister had ever seen the Nils play, and the same could be said for some people in the room, which just added to the tragedy. But as one message board poster pointed out to his dearly departed friend: "Everybody loved you more than you ever knew."