Joel Plaskett and his father, Bill, delivered a charming and engaging performance at Vancouver's Vogue Theatre last night (April 1), touring in support of their new joint LP, Solidarity.
Mayhemingways, of Peterborough, Ontario, opened for the Plasketts, then played as their backing band later on in the night. As opening act, the duo performed folksy, stripped-back numbers such as "Small Town Crush," which features the memorable lines, "Saw you at the grocery store, you were buying some strange things / Like Wonder Bread and baloney, yellow cheesy rings."
When the Plasketts entered the stage, it was to much applause from a crowd comprised largely of diehard Joel fans. The father and son launched into "The Next Blue Sky," a clear, acoustic guitar-led song featuring Joel on lead vocals. Bill's skilled mandolin playing added strength to the song's melodic lines, which would continue throughout their set. He, too, sung lead vocals on a handful of tracks, providing a contrast to Joel's reedy lines. The father and son played off each other nicely, whether on their guitars, during stage banter, or while singing.
Joel dipped into a number of songs from his solo and Emergency records, too, getting the crowd up out of their seats and dancing, with "Wishful Thinking" and "Rollin', Rollin, Rollin.'" A hilarious audience sing-along occurred during Joel's solo performance of "Fashionable People," as the crowd — and Joel himself at times — struggled to reach the high notes.
Although the room hadn't completely sold out, plenty of dedicated fans shouted over each other during Joel's calls for song requests, as he laughed and attempted to decipher their yells. Joel and Bill dipped into the political and historical on cuts from Solidarity, such as "Blank Cheque," with its brilliant concluding verse: "And you can't get higher / Than the climate change denier / Who sips his gin and tonic / While the world goes microphonic." Bill sang folk song "Jim Jones," about the transportation of British convicts to Australia in the late 18th and 19th centuries, his well-worn voice and lilting acoustic guitar lines calm and measured.
Their set was lengthy and versatile, especially when one took a moment to consider the amount of instruments onstage. Joel played numerous guitars and drums, Bill switched between various guitars and mandolins, and the members of Mayhemingways played drums, bass and accordion. The multi-instrumentalists' ability to elevate the music was clear during Solidarity's "Dragonfly." Joel told a funny anecdote about the song's inception, before quietly singing and playing its thoughtful lines on his acoustic guitar. Slowly, Bill and Mayhemingways returned to the stage and their instruments, their addition of drums and accordion giving a jolt of energy to the track that isn't present in the recording.
The familial air of Bill and Joel Plaskett's performance, coupled with the audience's evident love of their work, made for a thoroughly enjoyable night at the Vogue. The Plasketts and Mayhemingways combined Solidarity with a healthy collection of songs from Joel's back catalogue, making for a show that a variety of fans could enjoy. Most importantly, it was obvious that the musicians loved being onstage and engaging with the audience, spreading an infectious positivity.