Blackout Beach / Apollo Ghosts Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC March 10

Blackout Beach / Apollo Ghosts Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC March 10
An early start time and a wealth of other interesting Saturday night shows prevented this night at the Biltmore from being as well-attended as it might otherwise have been. Those who showed up, however, were not to be disappointed.

Refusing to be discouraged after bouncing off some up-close concertgoers in an abortive stage-diving attempt, Apollo Ghosts frontman Adrian Teacher bravely launched himself over the first row onto a bed of outstretched hands. The Ghosts played mainly new material from their upcoming full-length, slated for release in May of this year. Characteristically strong, the new songs also displayed some more involved guitar work by Jason Clisby, made possible by the relatively recent addition of Jarrett Samson on bass.

Apollo Ghosts are one of the best live bands in the business, so their excellent performance was unsurprising. Just once, for the sake of variety, it would be nice to see these perennial Vancouver favourites fuck up a show -- but that doesn't seem likely to happen.

Tasked with following an energetic opening act with something a bit more cerebral, Carey Mercer succeeded in keeping the crowd engaged while shifting gears. The synth-focused sound of Blackout Beach's 2011 record Fuck Death was replaced by a more guitar-forward presentation, as Mercer switched between six- and 12-string models, his spare, expressive playing bringing to mind Neil Young's solo guitar score to the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man.

Mercer's wife and Frog Eyes bandmate Melanie Campbell provided a similarly sparse rhythmic backdrop from behind the drum kit, giving his unhinged, almost evangelic energy a blank canvas to work with. Not entirely dissimilar from Frog Eyes, Blackout Beach is nevertheless an interesting permutation of Mercer's talents -- less spastic and more textural, it lends itself well to live performance.