Constantines Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 25

Constantines Main Stage, Guelph ON, July 25
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
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You can always tell how many hardcore Constantines fans are in an audience at one of their sets by the amount of people who shout out "turn it up" during the call-and-response portion of "Nighttime / Anytime (It's Alright)." When the band played it as the second song of their headlining Hillside Festival performance at the Main Stage on Saturday night, it sounded as quiet as it did on the original recording; although they were playing in the town that helped give birth to them over a decade ago, this was far from a welcome return.
 
The set was marred with issues from the beginning: Bry Webb nearly dropped his guitar during the first song ("Draw Us Lines"), then accidentally unplugged it entirely later on, right as "Young Offenders" was reaching its climax; Steve Lambke's guitar was way too high in the mix for the first three tracks, his usually nuanced additions overpowering Webb's anchoring riffs; and armies of mosquitos could be seen buzzing relentlessly around drummer Doug MacGregor's head.
 
Nevertheless, the band hit their stride somewhere around "Shine a Light," and didn't hold back after that. As men too old and heavy to be crowdsurfing were lifted onto the hands of a lightly packed crowd, the band seemed to pick up the energy in tune, playing louder, harder and with more fury than had been seen even at their historic Massey Hall show last May.
 
Part of that was due to the nostalgia-inducing nature of their performance. Webb, still residing in Guelph, spoke about still living in the band's adoptive hometown, his love for community radio station CFRU 93.3 FM (where he also works) and gave a shout-out to their old practice space (106 Huron Street, for all you future Constantines historians). By the time they finished their set an hour later with debut album opener "Arizona," it felt as if no time had passed.