by Michael Thomas
Confetti. Multiple projection screens. A multi-coloured parachute. Assertions that a PR agent fought off 50 Rodents of Unusual Size. Clips from How The Grinch Stole Christmas in inverted colours. An outfit change. Fake theatrical trailers. A screaming seal.
These are just some of the things that you might have found had you been at Rich Aucoin‘s sold-out show at the Drake Hotel on Friday, Jan. 13. As I write this review I am feeling the after-effects of singing along to almost every one of Aucoin’s songs and trying to sort out what exactly happened during his set.
Before arriving at the Drake I had no idea who was playing apart from Aucoin himself. Turned out that Sandman Viper Command was the opening band.
I had seen them live once before, and this time they made a much more lasting impression on me. The proficiency of the two guitarists and one bassist was really something to admire, and their skills were shown best during the long instrumental jams between lyrics.
When Rich Aucoin took to the stage, everything went nuts. I knew before attending the show that Aucoin puts on some very unique shows, and now I know why. In short, Rich Aucoin is so likeable and personable, with one gesture he can make an entire room feel like they’re involved in his show. When he asked the audience to kneel down on one knee and jump up simultaneously, the audience did just that. When he asked them to move to the sides of the venue and hold a parachute, they did it. When he asked them to sing parts of songs, they sang (of course, I include myself in the audience, so I did all of the above things as well).
Aside from the instruments and the floor, there were also three projection screens: one behind Aucoin and his band, one on the left side of the floor and one on the right side of the floor. He started the show by playing “movie previews” which were two viral video clips, and then proceeded to thank a bunch of people (some examples include Sari Delmar, the founder of Audio Blood Media: “Sari Delmar’s blood type is audio.”) Then he got into his songs, many of which also started with viral video clips (such as “Double Rainbow” and “Powerthirst” among others).
The first two songs he played were from his older album, given away by the clips from How the Grinch Stole Christmas playing behind him. As he got into his newer material, he required a lot of audience participation and the audience gave him what he needed. My main concern before the show started was “How in the hell is he going to replicate the sounds from such a grand, orchestral album?” Turns out the audience was all he needed.
For his song “Brian Wilson is A.L.i.V.E.” the audience began screaming the lines “Remember what we’ve been/Give in.” He even got the audience to provide the opening “Humana, humana’s.” For “Push,” the audience began singing “Push, push, push, push, push, push, push ’til it’s done.”
In one song, Aucoin brought out a feature of many a live-show: a parachute. You know, the kind you used to play with in kindergarten. He had the audience hold it up and a whole bunch more danced under it for the duration of the song.
He ended the set with “It,” the song with the video that pays homage to classic movies (I’ll include it below in case you haven’t seen it). The audience supplied the line, “We won’t leave it all in our heads” and the most magical moment was when the instruments stopped playing and the crowd loudly and proudly repeated the lyrics once more.
It didn’t matter whether anyone actually knew the lyrics to his songs. By the time the set was over I felt like I had been singing them all my life.
In short: you don’t need drugs to have a good time. You just need a Rich Aucoin show.