Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Suzanne Goodwin
On this night in Vancouver, the Rheostatics walked on stage calmly and unassuming, lead guitarist Martin Tielli wearing a wool beanie, looking very Mike Nesmith-ish. They played "King of the Past," "Motorino" and "All the Same Eyes" before Tielli brought out a beautiful double-neck guitar, hand-painted with the design of the never-adopted version of the Canadian flag. Next up was "Four Little Songs," a series of silly ditties of the same mold as the Who's "A Quick One While He's Away."
"The Idiot" and "Good to be Alive" were followed by a great moment in music history: between songs you could hear someone in the balcony singing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Rhythm guitarist Dave Bidini heard this and asked the guy if he wanted to sing it on stage. The singer said, "No, why don't you come up here? I dare you." To everyone's disbelief the band jumped off the stage, acoustic guitars in hand, and scampered down the aisle and up the balcony stairs. They played along while the guy warbled at least three verses. Then they returned to the stage. "Dare us," quipped Bidini.
"Sweet, Rich, Beautiful, Mine" was just that, with Don Kerr's precision pounding front and center and Tielli freaking out on his whammy bar, his guitar emitting some primo squonk and moan. When Tielli was asked if he was going to smoke a cigarette every song, he replied, "I think I can do it." He could do it, too. He smoked through every song, hands jumping from fretboard to ashtray. "Bad Time to be Poor" was given the full Crazy Horse treatment, bringing to mind classic Neil Young circa Rust Never Sleeps. "Hummingbirds (Earth)" was powerfully ethereal and eerie. "Claire," one of the band's few 'hits,' is a poignant, touching love song that was performed with subtle beauty tonight.
The Rheostatics harmonize and compliment each other's voices like few bands can or will. At one point Kerr left his kit to sing a duet with Tim Vesely that was achingly lovely. "Feed Yourself" was vivid and harrowing, an all-too-real teenage murder tale. "Introducing Happiness," "Record Body Count" and "Dope Fiends and Booze Hounds" were more of the same: well-crafted rock with a great abundance of ebb and flow.
The band left to a standing ovation which lasted till Vesely came back to perform the band's old chestnut "Public Square." "Horses" began with Kerr's solo owl-like vocal, to which the rest gradually added until the song broke loose with such intensity that they threatened to explode. Bidini has mastered the rock and roll leap, and, man, did he ever leap. Tielli was wrenching sonic shrapnel from his guitar, so involved in the song that he almost forgot to sing. They left to another ovation. Then Tielli walked out and started "A Mid Winter Night's Dream," the rest of the band joined in and it was magic, in a word, magic.
The Inbreds, from Kingston, Ontario, opened the show with a set of their pop confections. They tried really hard, and I guess you have to have it together when there are just two of you (on drums and bass, in this case). Though their songs are quite similar (this becomes evident after about eight of them), the duo performed with a lot of energy as they played tunes from their three albums. The bass player had a lot of great riffs and used his distortion pedal well, but, overall, I have to say I was always waiting for a guitar which never came.
Considering copying some of the images from this story?
Please read this first. Thanks.