54-40 in Montreal

5440 live 2005As a person who attends many concerts I am always looking for a show to provide me with a unique and memorable evening, something that will set it apart. Well, the strange combination of Hydro-Quebec and 54-40 did that, but I’ll get into that later.

Opening band Brighton, who are a 4-piece band from Montreal, took the stage and reminded me instantly of a number of new bands (The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, etc.) who seem to be heavily influenced by British rock bands, such as The Cure, Oasis or The Smiths. They even looked the part with their jeans, t-shirts and blazers. The four members use their instruments to create a nice layered sound which is quite melodic and catchy. The only problem I had with their performance was that the lead singer was plagued with trying to sing over the rest of the band’s way too loud instruments and could barely be heard at times. Brighton has a very laid back stage demeanor, not running and jumping around too much on stage; but the lead singer mentioned that they did appreciate the renovations at Petit Campus, especially the fact that the stage was nearly twice as large as the previous one. Though it did not seem as if any members of the audience were familiar with the band, they did receive warm rounds of applause after each number of their 40 minute set. They performed the songs “Just Keep Singing,” “Don’t Wait for Tomorrow” and “Unbelievable Truth”amongst others.

During the month of October Canadian band 54-40 is touring across Canada in support of their new album ‘Yes to Everything’ (released June 2005). They even have an opening date for none other than The Rolling Stones in Calgary scheduled for the end of October. This quartet has been one of the most enduring alternative rock bands in Canadian music history. The new album is the band’s 16th (including studio and live recordings) and they have been recording together for twenty years. Like The Tragically Hip, they are the thinking man’s rock band, tackling such issues as gun control, flatland conservation and the evils of over consumption. With the departure of longtime guitarist Phil Comparelli just before the recording of this album, the band decided to offer a permanent place in the band to veteran guitarist Dave Genn. Dave had been touring with the band and has previously worked with the likes of Bif Naked, Holly McNarland and Matthew Good. From the looks of it Genn has fit into the band with no problem.

5440 live 2005254-40 started playing their set amidst smoke from a smoke machine and strobe lights (the only ‘special’ effects I have ever seen at Petit Campus). Now, onto the Hydro Quebec and 54-40 part of the evening….the band was in the middle of their third song, just basically warming up and hitting their stride when boom, the power goes out in the venue. Neil Osborne, being the experienced musician and consummate professional that he is, took it in stride and instead of playing the diva by leaving the stage. He got the guitar technician for the band to hold up a flashlight and he came down off the stage, while the rest of the band sat on the edge of the stage, with an acoustic guitar telling the crowd that he had no idea what was going on but would continue performing. After telling us that he was not going to be able to be very loud and he would appreciate it if we sang along. What followed for 5 songs was reminiscent of times with friends sitting around a campfire singing; it was very cool. The crowd sang and clapped along enthusiastically with the songs. Osborne played whatever songs the audience requested of him. I learned that ‘Ocean Pearl’ is definitely their most popular tune. He also told us a little of the history of a couple of the songs, stating that ‘One Gun’ was written when Reagan was in Nicaragua and there was an indiscriminate killing of men, women and children going on. Osborne said the song is still relevant with Bush’s invasion of Iraq. After about 5 songs the management of Petit Campus told us that the whole block was out and that they were about to lose their emergency power so we had to leave the building. Despite everything, 54-40 tried their best to put on a show for their fans and really earned much respect in the process. I will definitely be in attendance, with a flashlight just in case, the next time they play Montreal.

1) Easy to Love
2) Can’t Get Enough
3) Lies to Me
4) I Go Blind
5) Radio
6) This is Here, This is Now
7) Ocean Pearl
8) One Gun

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