Bahamas @ The Centre, Vancouver - April 19th 2024

Live Review: Bahamas @ The Centre, Vancouver – April 19th 2024

Canadian darling Afie Jurvanen, better known under his musical moniker of Bahamas, kicked off a tour in Vancouver on Friday night, the first night of his meandering dates across the country in waves through to the fall. His ardent fan base came out in droves to a sold-out show supporting his recent album Bootcut, which sees Jurvanen imposing a more country and American style onto his unique songwriting point of view. 

He had to shake off the rust a little bit, admittedly not having picked up a guitar in months as he supported his partner in the run-up to the birth of their third child. “I can understand why professionals rehearse before they come on stage,” he declared in the arrestingly deadpan and self-deprecating humour he would treat the crowd to throughout the evening. “I’ve never tried it myself… But it’s starting to really hit me why they do that.” Nonetheless, it proved to be like riding a bike, and he pulled off a clean and concise set that teased out the best of his past and present alike.

Afie wasted no time with any preamble in starting the show, with no opener and the audience scrambling to find their seats in the polished halls of The Centre after enduring inordinately long lines at the bar. The man stepped onto the pitch-dark stage and found his place in a cloud of smoke swirling in a lone spotlight. His sultry voice rang out beautifully clear through the impeccable sound system as he plucked complex patterns on his guitar–one of many he would strum throughout the night. 

As his backing band joined him on stage, he grooved in airy, jazzy modes and warmed up those unpracticed fingers by weaving effortless solos. Not only did his newly embraced country influence seep through in ‘Working on My Guitar’, but so did his humble ethos in this era of his life, singing, “I’m just happy to be on stage, don’t need to be the next Jimmy Page.” He is clearly delighted to be able to keep doing what he loves, and genuinely has a knack for the craft, in songwriting and guitar playing alike. 

Afie expressed, in a candid moment of banter, that he sometimes feels that he will tour no more, finding it hard to strike up that balance between home life and a career as a musician. However, he can’t seem to outrun that old familiar longing for the stage–clearly where he belongs. “When we finished our last show last October, I was like, that’s it, I’m done…and then I got home and like three days later I was thinking, how sweet would it be if I woke up in a parking lot in Kamloops?” He said it himself, the grass is always greener.

For a musician who puts so much of his own heart into his songs, it’s no surprise that Bahamas’ output has morphed from more conventional love songs into those inspired by the day-to-day, the highs and lows of marriage and parenthood that were evidently incredibly relatable to the captivated crowd. His latest volumes see Jurvanen finding his identity in middle age, stepping into a new era in his life, with songs like ‘Not Cool Anymore’. His frank reflections comprise a compelling narrative spread across a dozen mid-tempo ballads–the abundance of which, he shared laughingly, his manager indicated might be too great. But the sold-out room proved otherwise as Afie weaved ballad after ballad.

They kept things fresh and changeable, though, as Afie dispensed with his backup band for a solo and largely acoustic interlude that felt intimate. He played a string of songs that were simplistic and short, almost like pulling back the curtain of what it would look like to catch him noodling in his living room. He allowed himself to get swept up in the moment, playing more tunes than he meant to, and going off on tangents as he turned on the charm to relay random anecdotes and candid musings between tracks. He even made a meal out of forgetting the lyrics to one of the tunes, vamping with his easy charm until a crew member came in with the save, calling out the opening line. His down-to-earth nature was endlessly enjoyable.

Afie took the time to give thoughtful, poetic, and characterful introductions to each of his bandmates, all of whom must hold a special place in his heart and some of whom he’s been working with since the very beginning. The band was tight and supportive, if somewhat subdued. I haven’t seen such a static stage presence in some time, with the most classic stage lighting imaginable. Regardless, the group was a well-oiled machine and they came together for some excellent peppy honky-tonk vibes from the new album with nimble and lively guitaring, as well as reviving some of the classic tracks. 

A stand-out in the pack was his accompanying vocalist, whose effervescent voice reached the soaring heights of ‘All the Time’ and ‘Lost in the Light’ that thrilled and delighted the crowd. Jurvanen decreed that her voice sounds just as good when playing at Upstairs Larry’s, but it sounded particularly good here: “For your auditory pleasure, no other who can measure, the Canadian treasure, Felicity Williams.” She filled Madison Cunnigham’s boots in the duet “Modern Man”, shining in her solo and nailing the delicate harmonies with a stand-out voice.

Fulfilling the obligatory encore patter, the band left and returned without much of a fuss. “I only even did that because it’s a Friday night. I respect your time,” Afie joked. “Like I’m going to hold you hostage for an extra thirty seconds just so I can feel like Dave Grohl?” They played one of Bootcut’s emotional highlights, “Nothing Blows My Mind” in a chagrin-filled conclusion. They left us with “an oldie but a goodie” with ‘Caught Me Thinking’ where they played outside the bounds of its recognizable riffs. “Well, we’re kind of done now,” Jurvanen pronounced, deadpan to the end, wrapping a night of wit, warmth, and relaxing music. 

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