Saturday, April 7, 2012

Our Lady Peace, Bowery Ballroom, April 5th 2012

(Photo: Stolen from Wikipedia, 2010)

For some strange reason, for most of my life I’ve grouped Our Lady Peace with other multi-hit bands on the radio that weren’t “huge” but garnered similar radio play (and therefore listened to, because I really only listened to the radio during that time) from WGRD in Grand Rapids, MI circa 1997 like Seven Mary Three, Local H, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Lit, Splender etc, etc. But, if you look at the consistency of the catalog, OLP should break away from that grouping and be with the so-called “big dogs” of the era.

Using a ’95 to ’05 window, I’d be hard pressed to quickly name five bands better than Our Lady Peace. Throughout their first five albums, every song on each album has a place for me. I can listen to them all…all-the-way-through. They are certainly an underrated commodity I will try not to ignore any further.

Consistency being the key that unlocks this door, OLP never became universally huge, yet remained relevant with a couple hits on each remarkably dependable album. My friends didn’t all go to OLP concerts and wear the t-shirt, to school, the next day like a doggy bringing a dead bird to the doorstep with self-aggrandizing pride in the same vein as Dave Matthews Band or Smashing Pumpkins. And, perhaps it’s only because hindsight is 20-20, but if you could go back in time, what corner would you rather stand in?

Canadian bacon is rarely trumped.

So, when I heard OLP was “returning” to tour in 2012, and playing my favorite venue in the city, Bowery Ballroom, I knew I had to check it out. Nostalgia and legacy alike were floating around in my head like bubbly balloons filled with Labatt Blue. Now, I started this paragraph using the word, return, sarcastically. I did this to highlight the fact that the band never left (well, there was a hiatus or two). They somehow eluded MY playlist, but have been around keeping a somewhat low profile consistent and patient throughout the last few years.

My falling out with OLP took place around Gravity. I remember blasting that album all throughout the summer of 2002, but subconsciously the plays dwindled out of my massive rotation. You can’t listen to it all, right?

I also remember seeing the band in 2001 at the Orbit Room in Grand Rapids and being impressed with the cult fan base they had. I seemed to be the only person (in the orbiting room?) who didn’t know every lyric to every song and feel the need to scream it along with the band vehemently. Especially, when lead singer Raine Maida turns the microphone towards the audience, flipping the vocal script of the show (most notably on “4am”). Many bands pull similar moves, but are rarely executed with such charming confidence. I can dig it.

Cut to 2012. The band is promoting their eighth studio album Curve and hopes to shed the perceived cookie cutter mediocrity of 2009’s Burn Burn and 2005’s Healthy in Paranoid Times. Even 2002’s Gravity marked a distinct fork in direction from the psychedelic surreal aura their early music created, in favor of a safer rock aesthetic, which for me is forgiven due to Gravity’s ability to remain rock-steady all the way through. Like a medium well sirloin steak, it might not be as juicy as the medium rare you ordered—it’s still better than chuck.

The show I saw at Bowery was an extraordinary effort from a veteran band that’s too good to fade into the sunset. With a cult fan base, and a continued desire to find what made OLP so unique in the first place, they should be able to retain a mid-size venue profile throughout the foreseeable future. The sold out Bowery Ballroom was eating out of the Birdman’s (Raine Maida is no closer to looking like the Birdman than he was in 2000. He hasn’t aged at all!) hand throughout the 17-song, double encore set. You can’t hear a song like “Starseed” live and not want to jump around and lose your shit.

I was surprised not to see “Somewhere Out There” or “Life” and especially live gem “Julia” to which I perceived to “un-missable” numbers in their repertoire, but I guess you can’t have it all.

Other highlights included:

  • A delectable backdrop and projector unit that was set up near the back-side bar at Bowery. It must have taken up 6-7 people’s spots at the show. I wonder if they accounted for that when doling out tickets. It was remarkable packed in there, even for a sold out show.
  • After a couple newer songs, the hit parade of (in consecutive order): Clumsy, One Man Army, Superman’s Dead, All My Friends, The Birdman, Is Anyone Home?, left me extremely nostalgic for the days of cruising the Lake Michigan coast in my ’87 Mustang.
  • Raine Maida ventured to the balcony of Bowery Ballroom to sing, while hanging from the top railing like a crazy person about to jump. Part of me really thought he was going to jump!?
  • The opening band, The Pack A.D., was a two-woman band on a mission. A drummer and a guitarist. The guitarist had long black hair, a big red guitar and was wearing a white shirt. The drumming was mechanical and the guitar licks were thrashy. Yes, it was hard not to think “White Stripes,” but even so, I thought it was a worthwhile rip-roaring rock experience when complimented with enough Red Stripes to make whitey’s like me dance.
  • Seeing a lead singer passionately man a mega-phone into their vocal prowess never ceases to thrill me. I’ve seen many do it, none as proficient as Raine Maida.
  • One of my favorites “One Man Army” was performed with a great deal of said mega-phone, ending with Maida wailing falsetto into the microphone from his knees. The zeal was chilling, as the vocals were the last thing to ring out of the song.

Allowance (1st song on new album)
Fire in the Henhouse (2nd song on new album)
One Man Army
Superman’s Dead
All My Friends
The Birdman ("we haven't played this in a long time")
Is Anyone Home?
Thief (acoustic)
Find Our Way
Heavyweight (new single)

As Fast as You Can
Paper Moon


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