The ploy seemed to pay off, though, as the bar was packed by the time McGrath and his three-piece band took the stage around midnight. "This is Young Canadians," he announced as they launched into album opener "Eternal Adolescence." While McGrath could be seen flitting about the bar chatting with friends and supporters before the show, once at the mic, the 23-year-old maintained an incredible focus, his raspy vocals cutting through his overdriven guitars.
The record's more upbeat numbers, such "Rabid Dog" and the title track, were unsurprising crowd pleasers. McGrath's years in Edmonton's punk underground reared their head as he leaped and thrashed around the stage. His backing band did a good job of toughening up the slower, more delicate compositions, the lap steel/keyboard player seated to McGrath's left doing and excellent job delivering some of the album's more subtle textures.
"Auditorium," a haunting paean to the concept of punk, proved to be the evening's highlight before the band finished their set with album closer "Saskatoon, SK." McGrath and co. started to pack up but were quickly coaxed backed to their instruments for a three-song encore that included covers of Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" and "Fuckin' Up," and ended abruptly when the drummer hopped over his kit to tackle McGrath to the stage floor.
The night proved that McGrath has the rare combination of both talent and ambition with a stellar album in the can, and the driven personality to deliver it to the masses. When Young Canadians drops at the end of next month, it's hard to imagine the singer not graduating to larger venues as his star rises on the Canadian music scene. Best get in on the ground floor now -- you'll thank yourself for it later.