Last night my lovely friend Celeste took me to this show. While one of the Sunparlour Players (Mike Rosenthal) was in the PRO for a couple of years, and is a friend of mine, I’d never actually heard them play.
So we went down to the Theatre Centre, which is normally, well, a theatre, but occasionally hosts bands. It was swelteringly hot outside even at 9 PM; inside as the place filled up the atmosphere began to resemble that of a sauna. Or a dry-cleaners. Or a dry cleaners that’s set up inside a sauna. Either way, it was hot. I forgot to mention that I rode my bicycle to Port Credit (about 25km) and back yesterday as well, so I’m sure my electrolyte balance is days away from recovering.
Josh Reichmann opened the show. Apparently he normally has a full backing band – apparently he’s pretty well-known, too, making him one of the legions of famous people I’ve never heard of – but last night he was accompanied only by a backing track and an interpretive dancer.
His performance style is what you’d expect from Justin Timberlake if Justin Timberlake has Asperger’s syndrome. He stalks around the stage in circles singing incomprehensibly over his own CD, clutching at the hipster medallion hanging around his neck. I found it…baffling. This morning I’ve been listening to him on Myspace, and with the full band it’s actually really good. If I had based my opinion of him solely on what I saw last night, I would have thought the Theatre Centre was irresponsibly exploiting someone with a neurological disorder. Weird. Next time he plays with the full band I’ll have to check it out and see what he’s like without the overly loud backing track.
The interpretive dancer was mostly very good, though, until she attempted a ballet move that I recognized – a forward penche in arabesque with a developpe devant – and did not do it well.
Anyway. After about 30 minutes of sweating and confusion the Sunparlour Players came out. You know, to digress for a moment, there’s something I love about Canadian music: it’s open to, shall we say, non-Hollywood-looking people.
The Sunparlour Players are a really successful band, as success in Canadian music goes, and it’s NOT populated by living Ken and Barbie dolls like so many American acts. The lead singer, Andrew Penner, looks – and I mean this in the nicest possible way – like a friendly boat repairman from Muskoka. I love it.
Back to the music: as I said, I’d never heard them before, and even in a less-than ideal environment it came across well. The Sunparlours have a grasp of texture and tone that’s missing from a lot of pop bands; even though there are no less than three kick-drums on stage, they are capable of playing quietly and delicately as well as balls-out aggressively loud. Even though I was hot and tired, their music drew me in. The one thing that I would change, if I were in the band, would be to introduce some more harmonic variety – a lot of the songs depended on an alternation between only two chords (usually I – IVM7; for example, D – GM7) and this really limited the structure of the material. I’d love to see what they would do with a harmonic structure that developed instead of repeating.
Anyway, the performance was confident and committed in spite of the heat – Celeste and I were standing close to Mike Rosenthal and could see that his shirt was completely drenched in sweat – and the crowd loved it. Myself included.