Scout Niblett The Cobalt, Vancouver BC, August 23

Scout Niblett The Cobalt, Vancouver BC, August 23
Photo: Alan Ranta
Scout Niblett is a force to be reckoned with. There was such palpable tension simmering from the moment she hit the stage. She wasn't going to take shit from anyone or anything, glaring at a bank of noisy pinball machines between songs, which seemed to feed her seething current of unrest, and struggling with a sound guy to get more vocals in the mix.

Joined by drummer Dave Jacober and guitarist Miguel Ortiz Caturani after performing a couple of songs solo with just her electric guitar, Niblett's set had superb pacing. It built from her first solo songs to waves of nasty crescendos, while maintaining her sense of space and minimalism dripping with emotional nuance.

A few songs into her set, Niblett played a voracious rendition of "Gun" from her recent Drag City album, It's Up to Emma, and then asked, "Any questions?" As soon as she said this, the intensity of her performance hit critical mass, exploding in the dim venue like a hand gripped tight over a lit firecracker. Shifting from pained strums to face-melting riffs, her sound slashed the night air like the grim reaper's scythe. Jacober and Caturani rolled in just in time to take her pieces to the next level, never over-playing their hands. It was a bit like seeing a grunge mini-Sigur Rós or a bluesy Godspeed You! Black Emperor, fronted by Janis Joplin.

The faces of Jacober and Caturani seemed glazed over, perhaps hypnotized by Niblett's spellbinding intensity, she was such a force. Playing "Nevada" from 2007's This Fool Can Die Now, she kicked the stage like she wanted to break through it, stiffening her body as she dropped the hammer on epic chords and stomped the floor, snarling her lip as she ground down her heel. It seemed as though she was going to tear apart and reconstitute the fabric of existence when she sang the "take another little piece of my heart"-evoking chorus of "What Can I Do?" She practically dripped with raw power, and yes, when it was all said and done, she left the stage with a short and sweet "thank you."