Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SHOW REVIEW : The Bonfire Ball ft. Jason Collett, Zeus & Bahamas x2

"yes, it was good... but was it Bonfire Ball good?"

As the previous comment suggests, the Bonfire Ball tour featuring Toronto artists Jason Collett, Zeus and Bahamas holds as the golden standard for live shows from this point on. Where do I even begin to recount the camaraderie and phenomenal musicianship that I witnessed? It would be helpful to mention that I had the pleasure of attending the show twice, first in Vancouver at the Biltmore Cabaret on March 26, 2010, and then in Victoria at Sugar Night Club on March 27. So this review will be an amalgamation of both of these nights.

Firstly, a difference between the two nights. The Vancouver show was oversold-- I was told that 500 tickets were sold for the Biltmore, with a capacity of 380. Needless to say, the place was packed half an hour before the sets began, which is when I arrived decked out in a gown as promised to Grant Lawrence of CBC Radio 3, who had challenged attendees of the Bonfire Ball to dress with the "Ball" part in mind. The bands looked visibly surprised to see a crowd of about 10 extremely well-dressed indie kids at stage right, and commented as such when I chatted with members of Zeus post-show.

The low stage and wideness of the Biltmore contributed to being much closer to the band. On the other hand, the Victoria show was considerably more sparse, and the high stage, combined with a well-placed disco ball and other effective lighting, made the show at Sugar resemble prom night in the '70s. I even was asked spontaneously to slow dance during a Bahamas number, which was very fitting. Also, by the time of the Victoria show, which was the tour's second night back in Canada after weeks of touring down south, Collett and co. had caught wind of the challenge to dress up and spoke warmly of CBC Radio 3 during the show. In what was their longest stretch of banter, Jason Collett remarked to an audience member, asking him why he wasn't listening to "the most important radio station in Canada," chiding him for losing his Canadian spirit so soon after the Olympics had left.

Onto the music! Like I had alluded to in a previous post, the shows featured Bahamas, Zeus and Collett in 3 hours of collaborative play, as opposed to 3 distinct sets. This allowed the studio recordings to really come alive with full instrumentation which so often doesn't happen with touring bands. And from the moment Jason Collett steps onto the stage alone, seemingly to tune his guitar but actually starting the show with an acoustic number, the audience's expectations about show sequences are turned upside down.

Never again will you witness so much harmonizing and guitar duets in a single show. Nor like Jen Polk noted for Sticky Magazine, so much testosterone-- i.e. sex, oozing out of fingers and voices. Although appearances did come into play, the appeal of the Bonfire Ball which drove the audience into frenzies were Bahamas' sly, dirty charm, Zeus' tireless enthusiasm and Jason Collett's commanding sway. It's hard to say which was the most popular act of the night, as excited expressions were made anytime the acts were shuffled up. However, when Bahamas was on, you could expect a sexy, bluesy number with smirks and jesting with audience members. When Zeus took the stage, you knew minutes of pure groovy pop bliss were soon to follow... but never knew who was going to play what. And when headliner Jason Collett headed the band, you were taken by his soulful drawl to an era of rock-and-roll that frankly, I wasn't even around to be nostalgic for.

And when the show resumed for the encores, the audiences were treated to an entire set of inventive and totally danceable covers. The Vancouver night saw Neil Quin of Zeus cover R. Kelly's "Ignition" without a hint of irony, and Bahamas' rendition of "I've Never Found A Girl (Who Loves Me Like You Do)" pretty much left no females with a libido standing. For the Victoria show, the 3 bands came together and covered Kylie Minogue's "I Just Can't Get You Out of My Head." Both nights also had the (better than Genesis themselves) amazing Zeus cover of "That's All," which is on their EP Sounds Like Zeus.

Do me a favour; see the Bonfire Ball if you haven't. And if you have, see them again. You won't regret it!

For another more thorough write-up, check out 3amrevelations by my good friend Kirk.
Below are the set lists from the Vancouver and Victoria Bonfire Ball shows:

Vancouver (1&2), Victoria (3):

More upcoming Bonfire Ball dates:

31 Mar 2010 20:00
Pawn Shop, Edmonton, Alberta
1 Apr 2010 20:00
The Legion, Calgary, Alberta
2 Apr 2010 20:00
The Exchange, Regina, Saskatchewan
3 Apr 2010 20:00
West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
4 Apr 2010 20:00
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, Minnesota
6 Apr 2010 20:00
Majestic Theatre, Madison, Wisconsin
7 Apr 2010 20:00
Schuba’s, Chicago, Illinois
12 Apr 2010 20:00
Casbah, Hamilton, Ontario
13 Apr 2010 20:00
Starlight, Waterloo, Ontario
14 Apr 2010 20:00
Zaphods, Ottawa, Ontario
15 Apr 2010 20:00
Petit Campus, Montreal, Quebec
20 Apr 2010 20:00World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
21 Apr 2010 20:00
The Iron Horse, Northampton, Massachusetts
24 Apr 2010 20:00
Union Hall, Brooklyn, New York