Longtime Montreal rockers the Dears performed in Vancouver Friday night in support of their latest record, 2017's Times Infinity, Vol. Two. The band opened with "Taking It to the Grave," vocalist and keyboardist Natalia Yanchak harmonizing with partner Murray Lightburn, creating an intricate cycle of guitar and vocal lines before the song extended into cinematic indie rock. Lightburn's dramatic earnestness were clear from his first notes; the musician possesses an innate ability to connect with an audience full of longtime fans. Songs from their last album allowed the Dears' formidable rhythm section to drive the music's intensity, heard in the insistent rock of "Of Fisticuffs" and "Who Are You, Defenders of the Universe?"
From acoustic guitar to harmonica to shaker, Lightburn utilized his full range as a performer, leaving audience members exhilarated with his impassioned vocals and tambourine banging. Some of his first words to the audience were asking if there was a doctor in the house — just in case he worked a little too hard onstage. The band played across their lengthy discography, and "You and I Are a Gang of Losers" retained the poignancy of its gentle refrain: "You and I are on the outside of almost everything / You and I are on the other side of almost everything," while "Whites Only Party" livened up the crowd. The band's ability to hypnotize created a layered and mesmerizing wall of sound during "Disclaimer," while they brought their sound into sharp focus with the bouncing drums and melancholic pop of "1998."
Lightburn took to the stage solo to perform acoustically during the encore, telling the story of how his and Yanchak's daughter would fall asleep while listening to "Ticket to Immortality" before its first chorus hit. He proceeded to play the song in full after jokingly threatening the chatty back of the crowd to "shut the fuck up or get the fuck out." The rest of the band joined him to close the night with spirited playing, including tasteful soloing, which the crowd lapped up. Over 20 years on from the Dears' first incarnation, yesterday evening showed a musical prowess and affability that continues to pick up new fans along the way. Long may they run.