Two Hours Traffic Marquee Club, Halifax NS, December 20

Two Hours Traffic Marquee Club, Halifax NS, December 20
Photo: Ryan McNutt
Far as I can recall, no one actually said the word "goodbye" at Two Hours Traffic's final Halifax show.

Admittedly, that might have been a bit on-the-nose for a band whose subtle wit and no-frills hooks have always been key to their charm. Or maybe it's that in this day and age, unless you're the Smiths, no one really believes your breakup is forever. It's not "goodbye"; it's more like a self-aware "see you around."

That said, everyone at the Marquee knew what last night was about, especially if they were close enough to the stage to see "Farewell" written on the drumhead. This was our last chance to see one of Atlantic Canada's most dependable pop-rock outfits before their nine-date farewell tour winds to an end. (Starting tonight, the band plays three final shows in their Charlottetown, PEI hometown.)

Despite a set that lasted more than two hours, the night flew by so quickly that I was shocked when vocalist Liam Corcoran told the crowd the band only had a couple more left, advising the hand-clapping, hip-swaying masses at the front of the stage to "leave all your sweat and dance moves on the floor." The over-too-soon feeling owed a great deal to the band's impeccable set list, relying on tracks from this year's excellent Foolish Blood earlier in the night and bringing things to a close with the best tracks from the band's 2007 breakthrough, Little Jabs.

But it was also because Two Hours Traffic are a band that I, and likely many others, have often taken for granted. Little Jabs was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, but since then the band have faded from the buzz sheets. All too often music geek types value discovery and novelty when it comes to celebrating records, sometimes neglecting bands who are just really good and damn dependable. Aside from Blood, Two Hours Traffic admittedly haven't found much space in my stereo in recent years, so the show was a series of light-bulb moments for me: Oh, yeah "Territory"! Right, "Backseat Sweetheart"! How could I forget about "Audrey"? Of course, "Heroes of the Sidewalk"! (The band were joined by long-time producer Joel Plaskett for the last of these, the Plaskett-iest song they ever wrote.)

And then, all of a sudden, it was ending. After closing off the main set with "Jezebel," Corcoran performed a solo acoustic version of "Stolen Earrings" before inviting members of Mardeen (who opened, along with Dave Marsh and the True Love Rules) and In-Flight Safety to the stage. "This is the last song we know how to play," said Corcoran, making sure the crowd knew this was its last chance to sing along.

I didn't want the performance of "Stuck for the Summer" to end. I felt inspired, sad and more than a little bit guilty for not doing my part to make sure a band with so many great little songs became more than just a little band that a lot of little people loved. Schemes rushed through my head: maybe, I thought, if I buy all the merch from the merch table they can justify keeping things going, or maybe if we all steal cars and drive to Charlottetown we can change their minds.

All pointless, of course. After a lot of smiles and a few hugs, Two Hours Traffic took their final Halifax bow. If this was truly the end, it was exactly what an ending should be: a joyful reminder of why the experience was worth it in the first place.

See you around, gents.