Toyko Police Club / Said the Whale / The Pack A.D. Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC, November 15
Published Nov 16, 2014Toyko Police Club have been touring with a stacked bill of Canadian talent in support of Forcefield, their first album since 2010, with two of BC's best supporting one of Ontario's. All three bands presented dramatically different takes on the indie-pop genre in this early all-ages show.
The Pack A.D. started things off with their brand of minimalist garage and punk fuelled indie-rock. Hitting hard for a 3 p.m. set, the duo of drummer Maya Miller and guitarist/vocalist Becky Black sure have their live set on lock these days. Miller pounded the skins and Black slaughtered power chords like a woman possessed, while the mic was shared between Miller's ever-jovial banter — in which she used humour to smooth the transition between their no-nonsense tunes — and Black's heartfelt vibrato vocals and fierce declarations. Drawing from across their catalogue, they dropped mid-tempo rockers like "Cobra Matte" from 2010's We Kill Computers and "Sirens," "Haunt You" and "Positronic" from 2011's Unpersons, but brought it down a shade with "Creepin' Jenny" from their most recent record, Do Not Engage, which hosted one of Black's gnarliest solos. Their half-hour set was capped off with a spirited rendition of "Cellophane," a single released right before this tour.
Said the Whale have stadium-sized their sterling folk-laced indie show since I saw them sell out the Vogue in 2012. They played tight and dynamic, with bold three-part vocal harmonies. Pulling heavily from their from their 2013 album hawaiii for their 45-minute long set, co-lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist Ben Worcester noted that "Narrows" was about trying to catch a salmon in the Capilano River, killed his lead on the reggae vibe of "Oh K, Okay," and got deep into character for the hushed awe of "Safe to Say," his conviction apparent through facial gyrations exaggerated by his beard. Two moments truly stuck out, though: the first was when Tyler Bancroft sang the lyric "If I'm fucking up everyone will notice," from "Resolutions," just as his mic started fucking up and cutting out, and the second was when geek-chic drummer Spencer Schoening came out and sang the lovelorn ballad "Seasons," accompanied only by Jaycelyn Brown on digital piano.
The pride of Newmarket, Tokyo Police Club took a little time to get into their post-punk revival. As the second part of opening number "Argentina (Parts I, II, III)" came to an end, the band's giant banner was revealed behind them, eliciting a big cheer even though the banner was so big you could only see the word "Tokyo" and half of "Police" disappearing behind drummer Greg Alsop. Playing a microKORG and Nord Wave as well as a bit of rhythm guitar, Graham Wright had the most stage presence early on, swaying and hopping around between keyboard melodies. Guitarist Josh Hook mostly looked down while he played, staying in his own little world throughout the show, but he was playing some rather intricate shit, so it was excusable. It wasn't until bassist/frontman David Monks put some crazy face on for "Nature of the Experiment" that he started to assert himself. He pointed into the crowd when he delivered the line "I want to live in the Bahamas with you" in "Miserable," and seemed to only get more into it from there. By the time they got to their "Hot Tonight" single, Monks declared it a love fest with summer camp vibes, telling the crowd, "You guys aren't minors, not in my heart." He announced they were going to pretend that it was midnight so they could really rock out, and they delivered on their promise.
While the primary reason for this tour was their recent Forcefield album, they drew from across their catalogue. Monks made the crowd clap fiercely for "Be Good" from their 2006 EP A Lesson in Crime. With Hook working the intense staccato effect on "Frankenstein" from their breakout 2010 album Champ, Monks dropped his bass, grabbed the mic off the stand, and wandered across the front of the crowd to serenade the all-ages crowd up close, grabbing a tambourine for the track's crescendo before casually chucking it aside to pick up his bass for the next track.
The set's high point came in the encore, as Monks came back to sing "Tessellate" from their 2008 debut album Elephant Shell solo with acoustic guitar. Since he was to perform without any amplification, he needed quiet, but he'd worked the crowd into such a tizzy that he had to listen to two solid minutes of loving heckling before he could start. After he started playing, the crowd joined in again with unsolicited finger snaps to keep time and waving cellphone lights like lighters, all of which made him smile. Then, with the rest of the band back, they brought the set to an end in typical fashion with "Your English is Good." As far as I could tell, Tokyo Police Club employed no backing tracks or preprogrammed synth parts to recreate their studio works, like so many similar indie-pop bands. Their music may be radio-friendly, but it's freshly made live, and that makes a big difference.
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