Saturday, October 10, 2009

POP Montreal – October 1

Hey Ocean
Given the too-early 8 p.m. time slot in a too-big room that adheres strictly to the first part of its name, Vancouver pop mélangers Hey Ocean! did what they could at the sterile Club Soda. Though they dealt mostly within the range of safe, coastal dance-pop, the group was at its best with a Feist-y jazz number about finding a better bicycle, and when singer Ashleigh Ball busted out her flute like the "As It Happens" theme ain't no thang. Also of note: following his family-friendly drum solo, the band's could've-been-a-male-model stickman went topless.

Joel Plaskett & The Emergency
After seeing Joel Plaskett twice, once solo and another half-solo and half-family band, I had high expectations for his first Pop show. The trio's rendition of "Work Out Fine" at Sala Rosa a few months ago in support of Three stands out as a particularly stellar concert moment, and from then on I was yearning for a full set of The Emergency.

Despite Plaskett's trademark jittery energy and tight guitar playing -- not to mention his tendency to meandre off into nearly-nonsensical-but-oh-so-smart spoken word before the attention shifts back to the band's solid rock 'n roll -- something was off at the Club Soda show. Maybe it was the empty balconies, the chairs and tables faux-filling up the floor, or the people talking throughout the show -- the only exception of which came when during new song "Old Friends." People shut up, and Plaskett's exquisitely arranged chords overlayed with familiar words that play off clichés in the most endearing way reminded everyone part of the reason why they came.

Nevertheless, the high point of the set again came with "Work Out Fine," after which the band trotted along satisfactorily, playing essentially the same set as their last Sala Rosa show. And I'm surprised to say that I didn't need to see it twice. At the risk of becoming formulaic in his middle age, Plaskett really should consider broadening his live tracklist.

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