Mother Mother FirstOntario Concert Hall, Hamilton ON, March 9

Mother Mother FirstOntario Concert Hall, Hamilton ON, March 9
Photo: Adam Wills
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With measured, dramatic lighting, Mother Mother took the stage and slammed directly into the snarling riffage of the opening track from their new album No Culture, "Free," and immediately had the audience enthralled.
 
To reward such a jubilant reception to new material, the band dished out breakout O My Heart hit "Body of Years," to rapturous response. Having a bit of fun with the well-worn tune, co-vocalist/keyboardist Jasmin Parkin led an extended bridge that mutated into a half-time cover of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades." It proved to be the group's basic performance formula for the night: a calculated dispersal of fresh songs amidst hits and fan favourites, with the occasional smooth transition into playful extended passages.
 
Even bigger hit "The Stand" followed, affording them the goodwill to play standout Very Good Bad Thing cut "Reaper Man." From there, the only flag in the night's energy came from "Love Stuck," which, while having a killer verse, carries the distinction of having the least distinct chorus chords in the band's career and being the most likely to find placement in a Gap ad. The chugging rock hooks of "O My Heart" did much to revitalize the proceedings.
 
Keeping the momentum going, Ryan Guldemond and company finally unleashed a hit from what's arguably their best album, The Stix, in "Let's Fall in Love." The venomous cynicism of that room-shaker contrasted nicely with epic new power ballad "Letter" which, coupled with the reception to "Baby Boy," further proved that the audience were more than on board with the majority of the group's latest offerings. Still, the gracious and charming frontman felt the need to thank us for indulging them "before diving back into the river of nostalgia" — seemingly an off the cuff jab at social predilections, unless you happened to be listening intently to the lyrics of the song that followed. Guldemond can't resist being clever, even when few notice.
 
After a bit of jazzy noodling, the band dropped yet another big hit with "Monkey Tree," and followed it up with current chart-topper "The Drugs" before stripping back to an acoustic guitar and the glorious, unwavering harmonies of Parkin and Molly Guldemond for "Wrecking Ball." Giving the drummer some, the rest of the band cleared the stage after making Ali Siadat sit the previous song out and let him off the leash for a smooth drum solo/interlude that was just long enough to impress without overstaying its welcome.
 
Nearing the end of the set, "Hayloft" transitioned into an extremely faithful cover of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused," which in turn led to the final one-two knockout combo of "Bit By Bit" and "Get Out the Way." The band retreated briefly before returning to play "Ghosting" and poke a bit of fun at the scripted nature of encores.
 
When not leading a nearly flawless and supremely confident set, humble, insightful honesty was Ryan Guldemond's primary mode for the evening, pulling back the curtain to explain the authenticity of his feelings about playing in Hamilton, specifically, while acknowledging the necessity of paying lip service sometimes in the performance profession.
 
That barbed wit also slipped out when he couldn't help but lay a diss on local meat and potatoes rockers the Arkells when asking the audience if anyone could name his favourite jazz chord: "They wouldn't know; they didn't go to music school."
 
That may sound elitist or sort of snarky to some, but to others, that commitment to the art of music and that willingness to express unfiltered, sometimes unkind insights is a big part of why Mother Mother are one of the finest power pop bands Canada or any other country has produced, and they more than proved it once again on this night at First Ontario Place.