Electric Six @ The Imperial – March 17th 2015

“Electric Six just isn’t cool anymore,” were words that frontman Dick Valentine apparently heard on the streets before the show that night.  The band now has ten albums of material, which is a statement that you could generally use to accurately figure out if a band was cool anymore or not; so let’s see how cool they were.

It was St. Patrick’s day and everyone (some way, way, way more than others) seemed to be appropriately drunk at The Imperial and since it wasn’t my plan to do that myself, I made sure to show up appropriately last minute before the band went on.  Dick Valentine (vocals), Da Ve (Guitar), Johnny Na$hinal (Guitar), Smorgasbord (Bass), Tait Nucleus? (Keyboard/Synthesizer), and Percussion World (Drums) got up and stage, and after Valentine mused about how it was very St. Patrick’s day in the room, what with all the drunk and white people, and they kicked it off with ‘Karate Lips’ from new album Human Zoo.  Though, when I say kick, there wasn’t a whole lot of kick to it, nor was there much to ‘After Hours’ (Zodiac; which I actually quite like on the album) or ‘Rubber Rocket’ (Switzerland).  Not cool.

© Scott Hemenway
© Scott Hemenway

Which is when Valentine announced that those were the worst three songs they had that night and now they’d play the best they’ve got, and ‘Down At McDonnelzzz’ (I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master) is most definitely one of those, so that was pretty cool.  ‘The New Shampoo’ came and went with a bit of excitement but then came the obligatory over-enthusiasm for one of their flagship songs ‘Gay Bar’ (Fire).  It’s a song with a lot of power and momentum behind it and has inane, sexually charged, meaningless lyrics that are just fun to sing and dance along with.  They took a break in the middle for Valentine to thank the crowd and “The White Wolf” (which is apparently Na$hinal’s other nickname), and people got right back into it for the reprise.  Thankfully they played ‘Gay Bar Part 2’ (Flashy) because I was worried they wouldn’t follow up with it at some point; it’s a great song.  ‘Gay Bar’ parts one and two are very cool.

That went right into ‘She’s White’ from their first album Fire and that was followed up with, “The most Irish song Electric Six has,” ‘When I Get To The Green Building’ (I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master).

© Scott Hemenway
© Scott Hemenway

It was here that Valentine said something that gave credence to the massive shadow that the first five (at least in my opinion) albums cast over the newest five: that they were going to play a song from the new album because they had to.  Not the exact words, mind you, but it was the jist of what Valentine was saying.  I feel like everything after Flashy is just filler material so that they can make a living and continue touring.  I say to continue touring because Valentine seems to genuinely enjoy being on stage and performing but when playing new material he seems to brush it off as if to say, “Yeah, this is garbage, I’ll get back to what we both want in a second.”  It makes the band come off like a Vegas show that has no home in Vegas.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing because their fairly formulaic set-list gives the audience what it wants and lets them play what they want to play and the fans certainly appreciate it.  Anyways, I’m rambling but just to re-iterate for the no one reading this, this is all my opinion and the feeling that I get from things.  The song they made this announcement before was a pretty accurate sum-up for this paragraph, ‘It’s Horseshit!’ (Human Zoo).  This might be cool?

© Scott Hemenway
© Scott Hemenway

Valentine said he felt like The Imperial was their new home (I’d assume just for Vancouver) which was just a weird reinforcement of my Vegas show thoughts.  ‘Future Is In The Future’ (Señor Smoke) preceded a combination of ‘Improper Dancing’ (Fire) and ‘(Who The Hell Just) Call My Phone?’ (Human Zoo) and then came the big one; ‘Danger! High Voltage’ (Fire).  The song was just as good as I wanted it to be and Percussion World finally stepped up with his drumming after I was thinking that he was pretty boring, and went into a drum solo to mix things up with the stand-by.  The bizarre ‘Adam Levine’ (Mustang) was apparently the sixteenth song, so I may’ve missed one somewhere in there if anyone can fill the blanks.  With that, I’d like to pretend that ‘Good View Of The Violence’ (Human Zoo) was the set ender (even though they played more than their set was supposed to be and they didn’t bother to waste time doing the whole encore thing) because the rest of the set was pretty brilliant.  Major cool points for both Fire songs.

© Scott Hemenway
© Scott Hemenway

One of my favourites, ‘Synthesizer’ is yet another great song of the debut album.  Nucleus? gets to shine on the song as it’s pretty much all about him and his skills.  Honestly, the live show is pretty just a testament to how good Fire is; those songs will never get old.  Having said that, Switzerland shines pretty bright with songs like ‘I Buy The Drugs’.  It’s another real catchy song that I don’t think a set would be complete without.  Last but not least was unfortunately not ‘Dance Commander’ which I was really crossing my fingers for but instead was ‘We Were Witchy Witchy White Women’ (Flashy) which was St.-Patrick’s-day-appropriately dedicated to lesbians.

© Scott Hemenway
© Scott Hemenway

And with that it was over.  There was definitely some uncool with the constant reminder that they have ten albums available for sale (though it was for the most part said over and over as a joke) and the personal and pretty firm realization that the band potentially cared as much about the five newest albums as I did but it was more than made up for by the mostly excellent set-list that covered nearly every song I wanted to hear and the band’s occasion-appropriate sleaziness in demeanour and presentation, though this probably is just the standard for all shows.  The material from their first five albums (for the most part) was all still amazing and I got almost exactly what I wanted out of the show so there’s nothing to complain about.  If you go out of you way to see them, it seems like they know what we’re all thinking and will be more than happy to play all those old songs you love over anything new.  So Electric Six; I still think you’re cool.

  1. Mr. Bateman,

    I think you took what Dick says on stage literally, 99% of which is all a joke… It’s suppose to have a burnt out Vegas show feel. I give your review an (F-). Maybe it just a American vs Canada cultural difference thing (forgivable) or maybe you need to give it a bit more research before you write some shit that make you look like a fool.

  2. This pained me to read. Electric Six are some of the best, most fun, witty and wonderful bands around. As a live band that really gives back to their fans in their live setting, I don’t think any band comes close. As for above review? I think the less said the better. However, It definitely seems like a lot of Dick Valentine’s banter and charm is completely lost on and in this review. I think it’s a shame that such an amount of time has been spent; wasted (perhaps literally) trying to break down what Electric Six are (or aren’t) instead of simply enjoying and taking in their live show and experience. As a huge fan of this band for well over a decade now, to see the same old-hat comments about the same-old hat songs and then denigrate them for offering more then to go as far as to imply that even they might agree with your stale, narrow-mind? It’s ridiculous. I don’t know if that’s the kind of edgy, ‘gonzo-ness’ you try to evoke here but to quote the man and his band: It’s Horseshit!

    All the best,
    Khalil Donaghey

    (By the way, the 2009 album: KILL and 2010’s Zodiac are well worth picking up if you ever feel like bothering to check them out)

  3. @ Less Lee
    Thanks for the thoughts! Unfortunately I have plenty of opinions and this turns out to be a good soapbox for them. Though, apparently I’m painting my opinion with strokes that are too broad, so I’ll have to clarify below.

  4. @Robbo
    Well, I appreciate the criticism but sadly, we’ve all got opinions and some of them are shit.
    Hopefully my explanation below makes my thoughts seem a bit less shit.

  5. @Ethan

    Mr. May,
    Thanks for expanding on your thoughts and let me just take a moment to clarify my words because maybe I made my opinion seem more unforgiving than I meant them to be. I’m aware of the band’s presentation as burnt-out-Vegas-show-esque because they make it very obvious through their dress and demeanour. I probably wasn’t clear enough with how I presented my Vegas show analogy; the term can definitely have bad connotations behind it but that remark wasn’t directed towards their performance or sound. Rather, I was commenting on how their set-list seems like a Vegas show in the sense that you go into it knowing what you’ll get because they’d be very standardized to achieve a maximum audience approval.

    Can you say the same thing about any band? Yeah, definitely; when you go and see any other band you can call that they’re going to play their single from the new album or this or that song. It’s just when I had that coupled with the comments Dick made during the show, that I got this feeling.

    And when I say feeling, I don’t mean belief. I don’t believe that any of the band members are putting out music they hate or find boring or only put in a half-assed effort on. I don’t know a single band member on a personal level and don’t pretend to know what they’re thinking. I would definitely agree that 99% of what Dick says on stage is probably a joke but we, as human beings, generally don’t say self-deprecating things if we didn’t think of it seriously on some level at some point. So based on that thought process; that was the feeling it gave me. Also, yeah, he could’ve just thought seriously about it from the point of view that every band out there knows that there are fans who prefer older albums to newer ones and was making a joke about that and has never been anything but proud about all the material that they’ve put out.

    But that just wasn’t the feeling that I got at the end of the night and decided to write about it and I completely concede that the way I felt things out is the exact opposite of reality.

    So once again, I apologize for not being clear and for making this so long but I hope this explains my thought process a bit better and I’ll be sure to use your criticism to try to be clearer with my wording in the future; thanks for the read.

  6. @K-Man

    I didn’t mean to do so but I guess my review has a tone that reflects way more of any disappointment I’d feel surrounding the way I took those comments rather than any appreciation I have for the band. This wasn’t my intention going into it but the end result doesn’t reflect that.
    I definitely had a lack of focus on what Electric Six gave to the audience through their performance and put too much emphasis on making this an opinion-piece. My writing just flows out from my thoughts (which sounds way more elegant than it is), and it was just a prominent feeling that I came out of the show with. However, I should’ve kept that to that particular paragraph instead of seeding it though-out my review and making it seem like I wasn’t impressed or happy with the show. I posted another response above that clarifies my thought process and if it’s worth the time to bother going through, I hope things make more sense.

    Also, I didn’t write that little quip about me and make no claim to be a “gonzo” journalist (and certainly didn’t write my thoughts on the basis that no one had ever thought that or that it was edgy), as I don’t think that my writing can quite live up to those claims; it was just written about me and I thought it better to have something that someone else wrote to reflect my writing instead of bullshitting myself up.

    But thanks for the criticism and for expanding on what you thought of my review. I’d like to fix up and add some points to my review but I don’t want to pretend that mistakes weren’t made, so instead I’ll just hope to see Electric Six at a future date and if reviewing again, try and redeem myself through more of a focus on the show itself rather than getting wrapped up in my own thoughts.

    Thanks for your time,
    Matt Bateman.

    P.S. I’ll definitely give them both a listen, thanks for the heads up.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Stories
Coastal Jazz: Tower Of Power at The Vogue Theatre