Bettie Serveert Main Hall, Montreal QC - February 9

It was this Amsterdam band's first time on Canadian soil in seven years and their first time in Montreal in a decade. What better time to open with a new song with the chorus: "One less dumb mistake I'll make/ One less time to take a break"? It was a small but strong audience that greeted the band, some of whom had driven hours with vinyl copies of 1992's Palomine to be autographed, and some of whom were Dutch expatriates. Those fans were rewarded with three songs from said album, but this gig was about new material and deservedly so. Like peer Lou Barlow's better work with the Folk Implosion, these indie survivors have traded grungy constipation for groove-based restoration without losing an ounce of song craft. This allows Herman Bunskoeke's melodically muscular walking bass lines to rise to the surface, while Peter Visser's guitar sounds all the more effective when it's released slowly, not all at once over every song. Vocalist/guitarist Carol Van Dijk can still comfortably command total star power; she's a charismatic and seasoned performer who can transcend otherwise gestural rock show clichés with all the enthusiasm she likely had on the band's first tour. Touring drummer Gino Geudens added essential backing vocals and new keyboardist Martijn Blankestijn is a welcome addition, even if he was occasionally louder than Visser's guitars, likely a first in the history of live rock music. The encore of "Tomboy" segued into a verse of Liz Phair's "Divorce Song" and then into an accelerating two-chord jam that threatened to turn into "White Light White Heat," which wouldn't have been that surprising, considering that Bettie recorded a full-length VU tribute album in 1999. By the set's conclusion, the roar of approval was worthy of a crowd four times the actual size, proving to the band that seven years was far too long to wait.