Jacco Gardner Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC, October 8

Jacco Gardner Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC, October 8
Photo: Alan Ranta
It was a night of firsts at the Biltmore this evening. After a simple but cute set from the husband-and-wife duo of Ari Shine and Adrienne Pierce, a Vancouver folk pop act that celebrated their first seven-inch release and their first ever show as the Royal Oui, Amsterdam's Jacco Gardner delivered the goods in his first-ever Canadian appearance. Gardner and his band of merry men transported the cabaret back to the swinging '60s, to the time when psychedelic bands first experimented with Victorian fashion and classical music to create the fantastical sub-genre known as baroque pop. Even the name of his debut album Cabinet of Curiosities is a reference to the Renaissance, defined as a collection of factual and fictional oddities that defied societal norms and confounded the senses (think Ripley's Believe It or Not). It's the perfect name for a fantastic album.

While the Cabinet of Curiosities record was played entirely by Gardner, save the drums of Jos Van Tol, his live lineup expanded to include Keez Groenteman on acoustic guitar and Jasper Verhulst on bass. As one would expect, Gardner was the star of the show. Looking like a young Beck with his face partially hidden beneath a mop of hair that was pressed to his head by a flat-brimmed pilgrim hat, Gardner sang lead from his station with a coffin full of effects, a MacBook tastefully hidden in a briefcase, and a wood-paneled keyboard, from which he dropped the sounds of harpsichord and combo organ.

Yet, there was a clear rapport between Gardner and his three associates. He harmonized wonderfully with Groenteman and Verhulst, while Van Tol held down propulsive beats on his vintage Ludwig kit. Between Verhulst and Van Tol, the bearded rhythm section was as warm and welcoming as a favourite sweater in winter. They stayed tight through tempo changes in fairly complex ditties like "The Ballad of Little Jane" and teased out an epic, droning build in a slower, more progressive version of "Lullaby."

Their attention to detail and brilliant taste evoked the prog rock genius of Finnish freaks Pepe Deluxé and the loving homage of Congratulations-era MGMT mixed with the summery psychedelia of the Small Faces and the Free Design. Huddled around Gardner's sombre drawl, possibly laced with flashbacks of melancholy from what the Move called a night of fear, their sound hinted toward the dark mystique of psychedelic mysteries like Fifty Foot Hose and the United States of America.

Granted, one might argue they haven't fully broken free of their influences quite yet, and the timbre of their songs didn't change all that much from one to the next, aside from Gardner's keyboard patches, but they are well-versed and they obviously practice together a lot, so they are going to get there. All told, they played pretty much every song in their repertoire in this 48-minute set. After a couple albums, they're going to be a transcendent spectacle to behold.