Concerts Concerts A Surprisingly Normal Night with Chad VanGaalen

A Surprisingly Normal Night with Chad VanGaalen

Chad Vangaalen at The Mod Club
Chad VanGaalen
The Mod Club
October 28, 2011

Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Julie Lavelle

The experimental indie rocker helps Toronto usher in the strangest time of the year.

Chad VanGaalen

With Halloween hanging heavily in the air and costumed drunks making their rounds on the streets, there was probably no better time to see the curious Chad VanGaalen and his quirky sound come to life on stage. But, while weird often is an easy adjective to pair with Vangaalen's work, there's a certain grit and might that always comes through in his pieces, and fans were fortunate to see it at full-force when the artist took The Mod Club stage for the last appearance on his latest tour.

Having never before seen Chad VanGaalen live, it was hard to know what to expect from the Calgarian songwriter. With so much unconventional instrumental work and an appealing, quivering voice stealing the spotlight in most of his recorded pieces, I expected that a lot could easily go wrong without the refinement of the studio process. Gratefully, I was soon able to put those fears to rest, and I instead spent the evening watching a stage performance that shined as brightly as his mastered tracks.

While they were shining, though, it was in a different hue. Joined on stage by a full band and sporadically by guest vocalist Julie Fader (of Great Lake Swimmers and solo success), the artist's setlist was performed a lot less, well... less weirdly than in his releases. The instrumentals were refined and fiery, the dominance of the synth work was leveled down, and the shake was mostly smoothed from Vangaalen's voice, all to a positive end. Crowd favourite "City Of Electric Light" was the most stunning among the many tracks that became masterpieces as the musician scaled back slightly on the strange, pushing instead a side that seems to take the back-burner in the studio. And, while his unusual approach is what often sets the singer apart, the tunes retained enough of their sound to be recognizable as the gems they were by the full house of fans that did little to hide their pleasure. 

What really made the set impressive though, and what was redemptive about allowing the slight change in sound, was the surprising new strength of the singer's voice on stage. It's possible that my perspective was faltering as I had feared the worst, but VanGaalen's vocals came towering and clean, and belted out stunners like "Peace On The Rise" and "Molten Light" with a passion far outweighing the feeling that comes across on his albums, recreating his tracks as new, impassioned creatures under The Mod Club lights.

It's definite that, while Chad VanGaalen's live renditions struck out in a different direction than their plotted and polished recorded counterparts, their performance came as masterly as anyone had hoped when they rushed out to buy their tickets.

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