Concerts Concerts Lots Of New Goodies From Said the Whale

Lots Of New Goodies From Said the Whale

Said The Whale at The Mod Club
Said The Whale
Rah Rah
The Mod Club in Toronto, ON
September 8, 2011

Review by: Lee Fraser
Photos by: Pete Nema

Said the Whale kicked off a Canada-wide tour that gave fans a taste of the new album and provided greater exposure to supporting act, Rah Rah.

Said The Whale

Said the Whale won the 2011 Juno for Best New Group the day after their last show in Toronto. At that show at the Horseshoe, the band put on a stellar performance and threw in three new songs for good measure. Now, six months later, Said the Whale have completed the recording of 19 new songs and The Mod Club show was an opportunity to try some more of them in a live setting. Seven new songs in total were played, and not surprisingly, due to the nature of Said the Whale fans, well received.

The Mod Club show was an all-ages event, a characteristic that sometimes resulted in body-crushing, head-injury-risking participation by the crowd. But Said the Whale has the politest, most respectful fans (with two very minute exceptions this night) and the love between band and fans is palpable. Couple this with the ever-present band love at a Said the Whale show (members of two local bands, Hollerado and Dinosaur Bones, were in the audience), and it would be shocking to witness anything short of effusive feedback.

The new material included one song debuted in Toronto at their previous show ("1980"), plus another half-dozen. Songs like "Loveless" and "Lines" have catchy lyrics and ample opportunities for audience participation. There were also songs to tug on the heartstrings like "Big Sky, Montana", a tribute to a grandpa picking wild flowers for the love of his life; and "2010", a kind of epilogue to "False Creek Change", about the effects of the 2010 Olympics on their beloved Vancouver.

As for the band, the guys and Jaycelyn Brown (keys, vocals) still look like they are having the times of their lives. Although he somehow manages to squeeze in time with another band, Spencer Schoening (drums) is a big part of the heart and soul of this band. The newest addition, Nathan Shaw (bass), was a perfect match the first time we got to see him and new fans probably believe that he's been there since the start. Singing lead vocals on almost all of the new material, Tyler Bancroft (vocals, guitar) seemed genuinely appreciative of the support for the new material.

The fire-side vocals of Ben Worcester (vocals, guitar) and the rolling beats of "Holly, Ontario" mashed up with "Dear Elkhorn", followed by "False Creek Change" turned The Mod Club into an Irish kitchen party. This vibe continued during "The Light Is You", a hand-clap heavy new song ("Lucky") and "Camilo". As if that weren't enough of a crescendo, the band then played "Goodnight Moon" and was joined by Jake Boyd of Hollerado and Branko Scekic of Dinosaur Bones for the refrain of "so much love". Big smiles, many heart symbols.

Said the Whale closed out the show in a very interesting fashion by presenting the very melodic and nostalgic new track "Big Sky, Montana", followed by their unofficial theme song "Emerald Lake, AB". Tyler and Ben then had a quick tête-à-tête followed by a plea to the audience for silence, and specifically a cessation to the tiring plea from one fan to "take your shirt off". Luckily her friends were successful at shushing her, and we were treated to a beautiful rendition of "Curse of the Currents", where Ben encouraged the audience to be a Dan Mangan-esque choir.

Our next chance to see Said the Whale is December 8, when they will be opening for Toronto's own Tokyo Police Club at The Phoenix.

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Rah Rah

Being a fan of Rah Rah since first seeing them play at North by Northeast in 2008, this was the second time that we've seen a change in the line-up. Back in 2009, we saw Samra Sahlu replaced by Vanessa Benson (keys, vocals, bass). At The Mod Club, Leif Thorseth was absent, with Josh in his place. While Vanessa's integration into the band seemed pretty flawless, perhaps it is too early to judge the impact of Josh on this tour, but it did seem like there was a small impact on the switching of instruments between band members, and a less noticeable guitar component to many songs than usual.

Rah Rah chose not to play any new material, though it has been promised since the release of Breaking Hearts in 2010. Sticking to their strongest material from both that album and their debut album (2008’s Going Steady), Rah Rah still boast exuberance and a party atmosphere on stage. Though Erin Passmore (vocals, drums, keyboards, bass, guitar) may have a larger 'fro, and Marshal Burns (vocals guitar, bass) may be looking up from his toes a bit more than usual, every member of the band is still dancing and singing along with every lyric, seemingly led by the effervescent Joel Passmore (vocals, bass, drums).

A nice surprise on this set list was the showcasing of the child-like vocals of Kristina Hedlund (vocals, violin, percussion, accordion) on "What About Love?" Otherwise, the substantial crowd was treated to all of the usual favourites:  "Betrayal, Pt 1", "Hey Henry", "Tentacles" and "Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel". The confetti cannon was set off for "Arrows", the silver letters were bounced around most expertly by the audience, and the creepy robot cat slouched and blinked at the back of the stage. One small Chinese lantern / piñata met its demise.

Though Rah Rah continues to present a show that they know works for them, this tour with Said the Whale is an opportunity for them to gain new fans. The emotion with which they play, the fun-loving yet thoughtful lyrics and the atmosphere they create should all contribute to meeting that goal.

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