Live Review: Whitehorse @ The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver – January 26th 2013

Whew, it’s been awhile.

Starting up the year with the Commodore Ballroom, I was in for some pleasant surprises from the two acts that evening. I came for the Whitehorse and was greeted to a much different crowd than I was used to (the average age was definitely quite a bit higher and the number of cowboy hats had increased dramatically), which I guess I should’ve expected because even though Whitehorse was a sort of Alternative Country/Folk Rock band, they still certainly had elements of good ol’ classic Country in their sound.

Plus with Daniel Romano, previously of the now defunct Attack In Black (RIP), the level of cowboy had jumped from ‘Hidalgo’ to ‘A Fistful of Dollars’.

They really went all out with a grand introduction being given before the curtains parted to reveal the man himself dressed to the 9’s in a rhinestone suit, and a hat that shamed those in the audience. I only knew Romano from Attack In Black, and to be perfectly honest did not connect the two acts whatsoever. I was a bit taken aback when I took a look into the man and found a treasure trove of surprises (though not in a bad way). Romano played an acoustic guitar and was accompanied by a fellow playing lap steel guitar. His songs were filled with plenty of heartache, and he does a damn good job of getting those feelings across. The duo played a 12 song set (I was tired as a fox so if for some reason this number is off, then I must’ve been striking down more songs than I should’ve) including a cover of ‘Big Harlan Taylor’ by Roger Miller and a harmonic closing number that had Romano’s bandmate singing the lead. Romano said they had only planned out a 30 minute set but had 45, so those last two songs were a special treat.

Now, Country music isn’t really my thing but I’ve gotta say that Daniel Romano had the right demeanor, sound, and musical ability to wow the audience. Although Attack In Black is more my kind of thing, if you have any inkling of interest in Country music, especially the older sound that he represents, Daniel Romano is the perfect thing for you.

When Whitehorse went on to play, the curtains split, and the two of them came out on stage, looking like the cutest couple you ever did see. As much as I’ll miss hearing Luke Doucet’s solo music of broken hearts that just makes all those feelings well up and spray out my face, personally, I think these two are the equivalent of the Zooey Deschanel/Joseph Gordon-Levitt dream coupling that teen girls gush over every night before bed.

…so now that, that’s out of the way.

The two start singing “when all is said, and all is done; time will waste everyone”, as they started with ‘Killing Time Is Murder’ from Whitehorse, and started looping in their percussion and get on their respective instruments. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland both had solo careers before coming together to make music, shifting Luke Doucet on his own to Luke Doucet and the White Falcon. That collaboration pumped out two albums before Whitehorse shot off on its own, evolving a very different sound. On stage, the two played everything, looping their percussion sounds and then jumping between electric acoustic guitar, bass, and keyboards to do that sweet, sweet thing they do.

By the time the second song started, ‘No Glamour No Hammer’ from the new album The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss, you really start to get that the two musicians complement each other perfectly. Their voices, their timing, and their playing just sync up so perfectly and the crowd was eating it up. ‘Radiator Blues’ is probably my favourite song from the new album, with heavy percussion and such a static-y, yet smooth sound to the mic distortion that makes it just slide into your ear and make you move. This was followed up by their apocalypse-y, end of the world song ‘Wisconsin’, that had the two singing close together and harmonizing, tugging away at your heartstrings. ‘Emerald Isle’ from Whitehorse is a sweet song that incorporates Doucet’s marathon running and McClelland’s ability to surprise him at the finish line (awww), and ‘Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song)’ has lyrics that’ll just make your heart melt (look them up, they’re easy to find).

/start promotion.

At this point Melissa McClelland took a moment to speak about a charity that she started up with a couple others; so I’ll do the same. If you love animals and want to donate to something because your pockets are overflowing with dollars and pet love, then is probably the site for you.

/end promotion.

“Now we’re gonna sing a song about my ex-girlfriend.”

“But she was a bitch, so it’s okay.”

That was roughly how the little banter went before the two played ‘Broken’ from the album Whitehorse, which originally was ‘Broken One’ from Luke Doucet’s Broken (And Other Rogue States). I do prefer the original, since you don’t really get the same effect from the couple shining together on stage, singing sweetly but I’ll still accept it since it’s such a good song (ps. Broken is a great album, listen to it).

“Well she wasn’t really a bitch.”

“Yeah, I feel bad.”

This being roughly what was said as an apology, since apparently this ex wasn’t so bad; Luke Doucet himself said he has “impeccable taste in women.”

Oh, you two.

‘Devil’s Got A Gun’ fired (get it?) us forward into a sadder theme, with ‘Annie Lu’ taking the feeling and running home with it; both songs being from The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss. ‘Out Like A Lion’ and ‘Achilles’ Desire’ made a switch from clear, sweet voices into a distorted sultry blues-esque sound that I always love hearing from the two. ‘Passenger 24’ is originally from Melissa McClelland’s album Thumbelina’s One Night Stand, and was re-done for the Whitehorse album, much like Doucet’s ‘Broken One’. While I haven’t heard any of McClelland’s solo stuff, I do love this song when they play it together, so maybe check that album out too if you have the time.

It was time to close the set, so the song that they chose to wrap it up was…

…I don’t know. I want to say that it was possibly ‘Jane’ from The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss but at the time I was just drawn in and zoned out to the sound that I forgot to make note of what exactly they were doing up there. So if anyone knows what it was, then cool, do tell; until then, we’ll pretend it was ‘Jane’ and the crowd went wild as Whitehorse left the stage (this part is the truth).

Clapping and stomping to get an encore, McClelland and Doucet walked back on out to give us what we were asking for. First was ‘Night Owls’ from Whitehorse, which is a slow and sweet song which has the two switching off parts, only to come together to harmonize beautifully in the perfect places. To end the night, the two played their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’, which is a slower-paced and less electronic-sounding version of the song. Best way to end the night.

It was the first night of the tour, and everything was executed so perfectly and beautifully.

If Whitehorse is going to be around, go see them and gush over how puppy smothering-ly cute they are.

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