Live Review: Said The Whale @ The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver – May 3rd 2012

On entering the Vogue Theater on Thursday evening, I was greeted by the muffled sounds of Oh No! Yoko reaching out through a sea of fans and red velvet seats, and in to the busy entrance hall. Up the stairs, past coat check, and down the darkened aisle’s I observed an audience of all ages, some with earnest enthusiasm dancing in their eyes, others with a look of boredom that accompanies unwilling attendees. On the whole, however, the environment was pleasant, with a distinctly youthful energy to it.

My friend and I claimed our seats in the front row just behind the dance floor, which (unbeknownst to us at the time) is a great choice for people watching, playing ‘Spot the Chaperone’, and overseeing some underage lip locking. By the time we had settled in, Oh No! Yoko had completed their set, and preparations were underway to welcome the second band of the evening, Chains of Love. Heralding from Vancouver, this band, formed in 2009, draws inspiration from “1966 sound”, and describes their preferred genre as garage/soul. After listening to their set I would agree that this is a succinct definition of their sound, as the use of tambourine and strong female vocals against a simple back beat are highly reminiscent of 1960’s garage rock bands and Motown hits.

Though this genre is not a regular on my playlist, I had to admire the band for their energy and ability to make a nostalgic sound seem entirely unique. Even with a wall of silhouettes blocking my view, the set was fun to listen to, and their fans seemed to have a pretty great time dancing and singing along to the songs.

Following Chains of Love, we made our way in to the crowd, carefully choosing a spot behind a younger assembly of fans, thus allowing my 5’3 stature perfect view of the stage. When Said the Whale took the stage, the crowd was brimming with excitement, throwing their hands towards the band and yelling out their name.

Though I found the opening to be a bit rushed, the performance picked up after a few songs as the band hit their stride and worked out some kinks. Their set list was comprehensive, including choice favourites from their entire collection, with equal emphasis on the old and the new. The high point for me, however, was the middle portion of the set, which comprised a couple of my favourite songs in recent months, Big Sky, MT and Black Day in December, as well as a clear crowd favourite, The Light is You.

The internal camaraderie of the band as well as their casual, friendly attitude succeeded in creating an intimate yet playful environment, which I found impressive considering their having just toured across the Country for eight weeks. To illustrate this point I present two memorable quotes of the evening: “I cant stop smiling and my face is starting to hurt”, announced by the amiable Ben Worcester, and Tyler Bancroft’s statement that “if I were born in 1993 I would be doing this”, followed by him making a heart shape with his two hands and remarking, “I didn’t even know that was a thing until earlier today”. These along with Worcester’s advice on crowd surfing (take your shoes off and say hi to your neighbour), Spencer Schoening’s acrobatic drumming, and Bancroft’s continual praise of our mutual hometown – to name a few – demonstrated the band’s interactive stage presence and delight at being home.

Said the Whale rounded off the evening with a well-chosen encore including ‘Goodnight Moon’, in which Bancroft’s voice gave out (much to his dismay), leaving his adoring audience to fill in the blanks, and the an energetic rendition of Lucky. The latter morphed in to a chaotic onstage dance party, effectively ending an enjoyable evening of Vancouver-made music on an entertaining high note. Thanks to the band for stopping by, and we look forward to seeing you again!

Photos © Derek Robitaille

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