When I arrived here at Imperial, there was a full-on dance party in progress. The blood-red-lit room was hopping to beats provided by local DJ My! Gay! Husband!, a last-minute add to the bill after intended opening act Lowell had to leave the tour unexpectedly. I’ve never been at the Imperial with so mach floor space. The room ended up being quite full, but people left each other courtesy space to dance in, even though a lot of people moved forward for Dragonette’s set. The perk to having the show opened with a DJ, who was positioned to one side of the floor, is that the stage crew quietly got the set-up ready to go and there was no downtime for the transition from M!G!H! to Dragonette. He just stopped DJing, and out they came.
The band currently consists of drummer Joel Stouffer, guitarist/keys/decks/etc. Dan Kurtz and singer Martina Sorbara. The tiny Sorbara is the undeniable face of the band though. While her bandmates were largely hidden at the sides of the stage behind various towers of gear, Sorbara came whirling out in a flashy, angular mirror-shard jacket, bounding around the stage in white sneakers with a massive amount of energy. From time to time, Kurtz or Stouffer would depart from their regular stations and take up brief residence behind an LED-array-fronted platform that appeared to house laptops, decks, synth drums and other percussion items. Behind this, another narrow, tall wall of LED lights stood, and stretching out from either side, a pair of mirror-strip ‘wings’ clustered everything together. The LED screens didn’t start up their spectacle until a couple songs in, but from then on, they provided a cool backdrop – sometimes just a sheet of colour, but also at times a starry sky or a liquid lava-lamp scene.
These guys are touring behind a very new album, Royal Blues, which was released on November 11 this year. While always including electronic elements in the music, the electric/pop aspect has climbed over the years. I know them best from 2009’s Fixin’ To Thrill album, which was comparitively severe and rock, but I was nonetheless a bit surprised how driving and aggressive they made some of their newer tunes in a live setting. There were a lot of drops, a lot of beats, but still a lot of rock. They also had some interesting reimaginings of some of their songs. The crowd loved it all, dancing up a storm all night. I have never actually felt the floor of Imperial bounce like that before. Sorbara took off ther mirror jacket after a few songs to reveal a white and black crop top tee over black jeans. She also took this time to talk to the room a bit, mostly about how they had been coming to Vancouver for what seems like 50 years, but they had never been to Imperial before and rather liked it. She took up a guitar on a few songs through the night as well, and close to the end of the show, their crew guy came out and told her to put the mirror jacket back on again right as she had been pointing out how hot it is in the room. “Like I wasn’t sweaty enough,” she deadpanned as he helped her slip it back on. She pointed out she could at least use it to check if she had lipstick on her teeth, and then gyrated a bit as the jacket flashed light all over the room. “Oooh, sparkles!”
She seems to be having loads of fun on stage. High-fiving the crowd, whirling around, smiling, galloping along to the claps and stomps of the audience, asking for sips of peoples’ beer. In multiple spots from multiple people, I heard audience members stating, “She’s so cute! I love her!” in response to Sorbara’s fun remarks and pixie-ish demeanour. She listened in to people’s yells between songs, often leaning over and asking someone to repeat what they had just said. “What’s that? You’re digging it? I’m digging it! I’m digging you! This is very civilized. Last night was… very uncivilized. I’m not complaining. I don’t wanna compare, but those Kelowna folks are hard to control. They’re all high.” The crowd repsonse was huge for “Hello,” a song Dragonettewon a Juno Award for in 2012. They took over some backing vocals on this one. The audience got another chance to sing during the encore, when Sorbara split the room to do chorus vocals on “Stupid Grin.” Unfortunately many people had already taken off to coatcheck so the room singing was a bit weaker than it would have been if they’d pulled this trick earlier in the evening. They played this song in a really chilled-out way, but with a super chuggy chorus. She thanked the audience though for their support. “I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a dick…. this is a weird job we have.” She just talked about how odd it is to just play music all the time and have people come and watch you do it. They then ended the encore with “Live In This City,” with one last booming drop for the road to end it all.