The Dears @ Palais Montcalm – March 6, 2021

“The Dears” by sebwautelet is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Live music. It is something which all humans connect to. Some of us might not like art, opera, live theatre, stand up comedy or sports, but a very high percentage respond to music. Throughout this pandemic we have clung to music like Kate Winslet did to that floating slab of wood in Titanic. We need the healing power of music; its universal language. While there has been next to no live music to speak of round the globe and its absense has been felt.

Used as a kind of stopgag measure, musical acts from the likes of Billie Eilish to Dua Lipa and on to smaller acts like Chantal Kreviazauk and Daniel Caesar have livestreamed live shows. Hey, they gotta make some money to, so tickets are sold and links are sent. While there are some pluses and minuses of this relatively new way of consuming live music it is what we have for now.

The Dears are a Montreal band which decided to celebrate their 25th anniversary via livestream. Using the lovely setting of the Palais Montcalm, an historic Quebec City venue, as the site for this show the band took the stage in the Raoul-Jobin Hall and played songs from all parts of their catalogue.

Throughout the 25 years their line-up has seen plenty of change with members coming and going – sometimes several times. But the consistent has been the husband-wife duo of Murray A. Lightburn (vocals/keyboards/guitar) and Natalia Yanchaki (keyboards). On this occasion they were joined by Jeff Luciani (drums), Steve Raegele (guitar) and Remi-Jean Leblanc (bass). To accentuate the oftentimes orchestral nature of the band’s music, on this evening they were joined by an all-female string quartet.

Known for their dramatic live shows, the indie rock band usually would feed off the energy in the room. Such was not the case on this particular evening. Sometimes during live shows the most memorable moments are when the room goes so quiet you can hear a pin drop as all members of the audience are totally caught up in what is going on. Straining to listen they remain silent for a moment. While that was the case in this room empty save the band and some techies it does not give off the same effect. It was just a quiet room.

As such while watching these types of shows it is almost like you are watching a band practice, albeit with better close, fewer mistakes (hopefully) and nice lights. Right off the top frontman Lightburn mentioned that it was the band’s first show in three years. Another thing I missed was the usual banter with the crowd. Didn’t happen and to be honest would be kinda strange if it did. It even takes some adjustment to get used to the fact that there is no applause after songs. Hey, it is a new world, people!

He did, at one point towards the end, talk about how this was billed as the band’s 25th anniversary celebatory show when in actuality it was their 26th year. Due to the pandemic (aren’t you tired of saying or writing that?) they had planned this show for 2020, but that could not take place so it was now, 2021.

Through the 94 minutes they were on stage the band ran through their old tracks as well as some off their 2020 released 8th album, Lovers Rock. Playing “5 Chords”, “Disclaimer”, “Pinned Together, Pulled Apart”, “The Second Part”, “The Deatth of All Romance”, “You and I are a Gang of Losers”, and “End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story”. One of the pluses of this type of show is that everyone watching has the same vantage point. No matter your height or location, your sightlines are unimpeded. Even better than that, the camera work he was good with uptight shots of all band members and cool camera angles.

All band members (even the string quartet) were clad in head to toe black and upon Lightburn’s face were his traditional Ray-Bans. He has a voice which has been compared to Morrissey’s of The Smiths on many an occasion. That is not without merit. In timbre more than tone. He, and the rest of the band, was sounding good with the acoustics in the room being crystal clear. All in all fans of the band I am sure enjoyed the show as this is better the alternative of nothing.

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