Walk The Moon @ The Vogue Theatre - October 22nd 2013
Walk The Moon © Jamie Taylor

Live Review: Walk The Moon @ The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver – October 22nd 2013

Ever since Walk the Moon’s first show in Vancouver in March of 2012, I’ve hoped their career would have an upward trajectory that would see them play bigger and bigger venues here. I was therefore interested in what numbers they could draw to the 1,150 seat theatre in the heart of Granville’s entertainment district.

Before it was their turn, we had two opening bands, the first of which was Los Angeles-based Smallpools. Although the website I had checked said tonight’s show was to begin at 9:30 pm, when I arrived at 8:45 pm, the band was already on stage, so my views will necessarily be limited to the 4 songs I saw them perform. They are a 4-piece covering electric guitar, keyboards, drums, bass guitar and look to be mid-20s-ish. Musically, they are very much in the vein of Foster the People, The Naked & Famous, Grouplove, etc. The voice of the lead singer (keyboard player) is actually rather similar to that of Mark Foster and together, with all four men singing in unison in their head voices is in line with the style of the aforementioned groups. On a technical level, they’re not bad at all. Sonically, however, do we really need another poppy falsetto band?

Then there are The Mowgli’s, with their errant apostrophe (Really? You couldn’t trust fans and media to catch on if you mentioned it a time or two, just like Torquil Campbell has trained folks that ‘his’ band is called Stars, not the Stars) and forced faux happy pop on the way courtesy of the only song I knew by them, the massively overplayed San Francisco. For this reason, in my heart of hearts, because the website only listed one opener, I had (not so secretly) hoped to miss them. But, if I did, I was resolved to give them the opportunity to impress me. After a quick changeover, a band with numbers to rival those of The Arcade Fire filed on stage. It appears to be a shoes-optional night, as a blonde man with tightly-wound curls was barefoot and the only female was in stocking feet. I hope someone gave the stage a good sweep earlier in the day at least. They strike me as being a really good festival band, they really are quite high in the energy department and anyone who’s not playing an instrument is at centre stage dancing and singing along or playing the tambourine or encouraging the audience to clap along. In green gaffer’s tape, words like “Love”, “Dance”, “Smile”, “LA”, “Mosh” have been spelled out covering any number of equipment boxes – and this is definitely something they project. Positive messages such as ‘dreams do come true, if you believe in them and work towards your goals, they’re the proof of that’ are communicated again and again. I have to admit, they’re not as annoying as I thought they’d be. They’re certainly better than the facile San Franciscothey’re known for. What also works in their favour in a live setting is that there’s a better balance between vocals and instruments. Even though quite a number of them are singing at one time, you can still hear rhythm guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, drums, lead guitar, the other set of keyboards and/or auxiliary percussion well. Recorded, more importance appears to have been given to vocals, and those to me were the annoying parts. The audience knew the words to Say It, Just Say It well enough to be awarded a solo chorus part. Their 6th song had a back and forth that reminded me of Of Monsters and Men, for the 7th, the audience were singing and doing overhead side-to-side arm waving and it was quite a lovely song. Our barefoot friend (who is very natural and charismatic when talking to the audience in between songs) does the primary vocals and goes into the audience, not to crowd surf or for moshing, but just general mingling whilst singing. The bass player seems to be the odd man out. The only person he interacts with is the drummer, but he’s usually just rocking out by himself and his bass, smiling, head nodding in time to the music. The drummer, is having a grand old time but as he’s singing along with the music, even without a microphone, he seems more a part of the band than the bassist, who seems more apart. The Mowgli’s did 12 songs over their 50-minute set that I was beginning to wonder if the website had mislabelled them as an opener rather than a double bill. As a band, they’re still fairly new (not as new as Smallpools, they’ve only been around since earlier this year with an EP coming out in 2014!), so perhaps they just appreciated being able to play their CD? So yes, while I will still continue to mute THE song the radio still plays way too often, I now know they’re much better than just that song and resign myself to that first-hand knowledge.

By 10:25 pm, the audience was READY. Under the rubric of “soundchecks are fun”, as every instrument was being checked one final time, the crowd cheered. When Walk the Moon’s backdrop came down to cover the back wall, they cheered. At 10:35, finally, the lights went out, excerpt from The Lion King’s Circle of Life beginning with the tribal chant (to go with the marking on band members’ and fans’ faces) and as the lights hit the stage Walk the Moon arrive. Even during the first song, Next in Line, I’m again impressed by how much dancing singer/keyboardist/auxiliary drummer Nicholas Petricca can achieve while playing the keyboard (even if it’s just holding a chord) – he’s got range and energy, and is using both to their full. And the speed with which he can twirl his drumsticks on rests – mad skills. Their show has grown with their popularity (this show features blackouts after the conclusion of every song – are we prepping for arena shows?). They have the capacity to adapt to venues of different sizes – a little more contained when they’re the support act, and when they headline – let’s just say this was not the same show I saw last November at The Venue, and, to a degree, it’s not the same band. They have just shy of an additional year’s worth of experience under their collective belts and will soon be recording their second full-length release. This experience is beginning to bear noticeable fruit – guitarist Eli Maiman for example has a few more rockin’ moves in his repertoire (first noted during Quesadilla during which he non-verbally leads the audience’s remedial of the syncopated claps. They definitely pass), and although the first time I saw them, I had said something about drummer Sean’s choice of wardrobe, I will say that he seems to have acquired more of a sense of style and henceforth I promise to concentrate on the things that matter more: the music, which, in all of their cases, has always been beyond any kind of reproach.

Lisa Baby comes with a potentially seizure-inducing light show during Eli’s guitar solo. The band have added steel benches with grate-style surface area in front of Eli and bassist Kevin Ray and already Eli seems to like the opportunity to showcase.

Nicholas has a few words of welcome for the audience at this point and mentions that they’ve written “a bunch of new music over the summer”. The next song, one of these new ones is played next: Spend Your Money and it has some seriously cool guitar riffs and bass lines combining for some catchy hooks. Nicholas uses the majority of his vocal range – starting off in a head voice & falsetto and in a nice chest voice range by the middle through to the end. I likes it.

Audience favourite Tightrope was next on the setlist. Even the folks in the mezzanine where I was were dancing in their chairs. Very few got up, but few kept still. No worries about the ground floor – they and the band were high, high energy. On a personal note, and maybe it is just wishful thinking, but I’m putting it out there: considering how much fun everyone has with this song, it could be longer live.

For the next two, we go back to the Tightrope EP Anywayican: Nicholas, with able assistance from Eli and Kevin, taught the audience ‘their’ part — an ooh-wah-ooh combo that in the song, caught everyone a bit unawares when it was time to sing it during the chorus. I like the disco vibe to it and Kevin even gets a bass drum to bang on. Followed by Tête-à-Tête with a distinctive ‘80s groove to it (one part reminiscent of the intro to Cyndi Lauper’s Girls just want to have fun and fat keyboard chords more New Edition) mixed with a modern feel, and another potentially seizure-inducing light show during Eli’s brief guitar solo. The song itself is also brief, I believe the running time on the recording is under 3 minutes.

Nicholas expresses his thanks to the two opening bands and how much they’ve enjoyed touring with them. For those who were at the last show at The Venue, Walk the Moon toured with Family of the Year, and at that show, the bands cross-pollinated – WtM joined FotY’s set for a song and FotY returned the favour later in the show. This was not the case tonight – but maybe it was for logistical reasons, FotY is half the size, after all.

Right, back to the present, another new song: Boyfriend. To be honest, lyrically, it’s a bit simple, but, is it ever catchy. So, two songs from the next record, I’m already thinking, if it ends up being anywhere NEAR as good as the taste-test we’ve been getting, I’m going to stop reviewing this band and join the masses dancing my arse off in General Admission downstairs. If it’s at the Commodore, I virtually guarantee this is what the plan is.

Familiar ground with Shiver Shiver bringing with it a return of the ‘mezzanine chair dancers’. The falsetto is in fine form tonight, that’s for sure. One repeat of the chorus is a capella. For the last minute of the song, fake snow is blown from the lighting truss at the ceiling, and Eli realises the irony of that mentioning that was the first time they’d ever dropped snow on Canadians, and how it’s much cooler in front of a crowd, say, in California. But it was fun and funny, so whatever, right? Everyone’s in super high spirits, it’s all good.

Writing in my notebook the number 10 (it’s the 10th song), I also write Noooo! When the setlist goes into double digits, it means it’s almost over and this is one of those bands you wish could play for much, much longer than they actually do. Or is it just me? Especially with Nicholas’s disclaimer of being a song to shake your ass off, the audience responds to the super-rhythmic elements of Me & All My Friends (from i want! i want!) and the nice big finish. Before it, he surveyed the room for people who had been at their first Vancouver show, when they opened for Kaiser Chiefs – few were and for people who were there for the first time – those cheers were much louder.

When the first chords for Iscariot were audible, a whack of smartphones appeared for recording. I wish I had. It sounded perfect. As was the mood, right down to the effect the spotlight on Kevin gave for the parts during which he supplies the backing vocals. The build on that song in volume and intensity and passion is just spine-tingling and by the “my friend/my brother had it coming” repeats I think the entire ground floor and parts of the mezzanine were singing in full voice. It’s a song with wow factor, if you’re listening, it gets under your skin. And even if you’re not listening fully, you’ll feel it get under your skin.

Fixin’ gets the audience active again and even doubly so for I can lift a car. The way the band end it, it feels like it might be the end of the set with the multi-coloured light show and the emphasis on audience participation. Hands reach into the front rows and they in turn strain to reach back. Anna Sun is the last song of the set and it is fun-fun-fun from beginning to end, with everyone on the ground floor jumping and dancing and a good two dozen people in mezzanine stood up to dance as well, and I’m finding that I’m rusty on the lyrics. Kevin and Eli’s synchro-jump off their respective platforms is, well, fun.

There were maybe 60 seconds between the set and the one-song encore during which square lights on stage spelled out the band name. Good thing too, otherwise it would’ve been impossible to get the mezzaniners back on their feet. Jenny was the song and Sean was briefly featured via a bit of an extended drum solo. As far as single-song encores go, it ran a good 6 minutes, so people had one last gasp at ‘leaving it all on the dance floor’. The band stayed on stage after the house lights came up to shake hands and toss drum sticks into the crowd. Well trained that a Vancouver audience is, and there were probably a good 700 people there (I *think*) they began leaving en masse before the last band member left the stage. To me, that doesn’t seem quite right – I mean, it’s just shy of 11 on a Tuesday night, it’s not like there’s traffic??? Oh well, I got what I came for – see yas all next time!

Next in Line
Lisa Baby
Spend Your Money
Shiver Shiver
Me & All My Friends
I can lift a car
Anna Sun


Photos of Walk The Moon © Jamie Taylor

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