by Michael Thomas
When Goodnight, Sunrise are celebrating something, that event will undoubtedly be a party. The band seems to be in a good spot in Toronto right now, having built an audience that knows how to let loose and have fun. But they also have lots of friends in Toronto’s music scene and so no two GNSR shows are one and the same.
This show had them returning to El Mocambo to officially release the album they’ve had in the works for a while, Create/Destroy/Create. The album is sort of a concept album, actually having a beginning, middle and end and meant to be played gapless if possible. The band chose to play the whole album from beginning to end in order.
But first the downside: El Mocambo has changed owners recently, and apparently the venue has had such problems that last night they had a $3 mandatory coat check. To give the venue the benefit of the doubt, they apparently don’t always do this, but this is behaviour that is a serious deterrent to frequent concertgoers. If it was an issue that made Silent Shout postpone a show, it will very likely have people reconsider ever coming back to the venue.
Luckily the bands that played last night were enough to remove the thought of that serious annoyance. And spinning local tracks in between sets was Alex Pulec, formerly of the Ruby Spirit, that kept the energy up as bands set up and dismantled their setups.
Opening the night was the Skirt Chasers, a guy/girl guitar/drums duo. For two people they made some serious noise, their sound gravitating somewhere between classic rock and blues rock. Their set was also apparently a tribute to Lee Hazlewood, which is kind of cool. The band’s obvious chemistry made for some endearing moments as the two frequently complimented each other, with the drummer calling the guitarist “a dreamboat, dream cruiser, dream battleship.” A small section of the crowd near the front of the stage started dancing almost immediately as the band started playing.
Next up was a very hard-to-classify performance from Urvah Khan and the Central Nervous System. Khan made for quite the sight with her ripped jeans, white shirt that said SCRAP in red letters, and her large, almost flame-coloured mohawk.
The setup featured Khan on vocals, as well as a drummer and a guitarist. Khan was full of energy from the beginning of the set to the end, even though she had apparently been battling the flu bug that seems to be very rampant right now. Sometimes Khan would rap, sometimes she would sing, as the band switched between anthemic, arena-style choruses and danceable electronic beats. The audience, again, was more than happy to dance and sing along.
Finally, Goodnight, Sunrise took the stage, starting their set with the overture that begins Create/Destroy/Create. The band seriously dressed up for the occasion- the men all wore suits, and keys player/vocalist Vanessa Vakharia wore a glittery golden top. They launched with ferocity into the album’s opening number, “Love Fortress #9,” and seconds after they began the first bit of confetti fell. “Paper Napkins” kept up the energy and the band settled into its own for “The Honeymoon is Over.”
The “beginning” third of the album serves as positive, high-energy beginning. The next third of the album is one that brings to mind the sounds of things going slightly astray, starting with the slow guitar chords of “Wonderlust” that eventually builds up energy. “The Machine” is a very depressing centrepiece to the album with lyrics about child soldiers and people shot before a child’s eyes. “This Is Our Wanting,” with its extended jam sessions, led to GNSR’s show ritual of throwing glowsticks and beach balls into the audience for a mini-rave.
The last third of the album features what could be called a happy ending. “8:17” is a glorious arena-rock anthem, and this soon gave way to “This Is Yours,” easily the band’s most celebratory song. The band always invites some of the audience onstage with them at this point, and many happily obliged.
Finally, the band ended their set with “The Ocean,” a nine-minute epic that they had never played live until last night. Having to get home at a decent hour, I only heard a minute or two of the song, but it’s definitely one that you can lose yourself in as it shifts between melancholy and high energy.
The set helped to really set in my mind what Create/Destroy/Create is all about, and it was especially good to hear Vakharia’s keyboard contributions in certain songs. It was a triumphant celebration, and the band didn’t even stop when bass player Andrew “Chowder” Charters experienced some kind of difficulty with his bass and had to quickly switch it out.
Goodnight, Sunrise are a Toronto institution in bringing the fun side of rock and roll back to the public. If only they could throw parties like this every week.
Create/Destroy/Create Top Tracks: “The Honeymoon is Over”; “8:17”; “This Is Yours”
Album Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)