Published Mar 05, 2009With a stellar new album under their belt, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead returned to Toronto bringing their reliable brand of Texan mayhem to the band's old stomping grounds of Lee's Palace. Jumping straight into The Century of Self's "Far Pavilions" "Isis Unveiled" and "Bells of Creation," the early indication was to expect a performance heavy on the new stuff. And everyone seemed fine with it, considering how elated the band appeared, but that wasn't the case at all.
Jason Reece stepped out of the background and manhandled the mic for an unruly version of the hardcore-ish "Homage," which led the way for an unconventional move by the band: to play oldies for the rest of the set. Not long after front-man Conrad Keely asked, "You don't mind if we play a bunch of old shit, do you?" like he was reading the minds of everyone in attendance. Rapturous approval gave him his answer, and the six-piece launched into what could be called "Trail of Dead's greatest non-hits."
Wisely ignoring the inferior So Divided, the band muscled their way through selections from Worlds Apart and Source Tags & Codes, hammering out "Relative Ways" and "Will You Smile Again For Me" with the appropriate force. Though Keely's voice sounded a little tender, it didn't dissuade him from digging deep into the archives for what I consider to be the personification of a Trail of Dead show: Madonna's "A Perfect Teenhood." Though executed without the "smash 'em up" recklessness of yesteryear, for a few minutes, Keely's screeching vocal and the malicious gang calls of "fuck you" came pretty damn close to living up that destructive reputation they once carried.
This paved the way for Reece to channel his inner shit-disturber for "Caterwaul," which led him to the back of the room, engulfed in the sea of onlookers. Once back on stage, the band pleaded for one last song, with Reece joking, "Do you really want more of this?" What followed was a motion to beginnings, as they played their first song ever written, "Richter Scale Madness," which is also the inspiration for their own new label, the direct result of major label emancipation. Fittingly, they exuded the devastation that a song titled as such suggests.
And though Keely sang "Let's all riot riot/Let's tear this place to shit!" today's Trail of Dead didn't need to follow through with their actions like they did on previous visits. Just having them back to form was all their fans needed on this night.