Two Gallants Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC, January 17

Two Gallants Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC, January 17
Photo: Steve Louie
There aren't a great many rock'n'roll duos who can make you forget they are a duo when they perform. Yet betwixt the guitar of Adam Stephens and the drums of Tyson Vogel, they conjure up something clearly bigger than the two of them. Though their native San Francisco is a fair distance from Texas, they ooze the feeling of a hard-travelling Southern band. With their rough-hewn, hickory-smoked folk rock blistering the night air, they are a two-man hootenanny wrecking crew

When Stephens pleads, "I'll lose it if you cut me loose" (from "My Love Won't Wait"), one is compelled to believe him. He sings with the conviction of a man making his final confession before death, performing with more fortitude than a handful of Dylans going electric. Vogel pounds his kit like it owes him money, his hair flailing around his bearded face, a true-to-life homage to the style of John Bonham.

Together, they played with the unbridled passion that seemed a little restrained on their recent The Bloom and the Blight, the duo's first album in five years and debut on Dave Matthews' ATO Records. Stephens expressed great appreciation to be back in Vancouver, despite border problems and having apparently been fed a steady diet of vodka and Red Bull, which Stephens said fucks up your fingers and impeded his ability to shred.

Yet, as soon as he said this, he started picking the slow intro to "Steady Rollin'" from What the Toll Tells, while Vogel held himself up by a speaker at the back, and a transformation crept through the venue. As soon as Stephens started singing their 2006 single, and Vogel sat back down at his kit, a half-dozen people started a shit-tanked sway huddle, arms on each other's shoulders, with everyone in the building belting out the words. Any lack of technical perfection was no hindrance to the feeling of their performance, one that only seemed to increase in intensity as the evening progressed.