A critical mass of humanity crowded the floor at Victoria’s Sugar Nightclub last Friday night for a double dose of Canadian indie rock in the form of current cross-Canada touring partners Said The Whale and Fast Romantics. With both bands dropping albums very recently, the focus of the evening was squarely on showcasing brand new music.
The evening’s openers, Toronto’s Fast Romantics, released their latest effort American Love (their first album since 2013’s Afterlife Blues) the same day as the Victoria show, which meant we were in for a celebratory set. Frontman Matthew Angus explained early on that the record had taken a while to come to fruition, as the group had been biding its time and changing direction after being influenced by their time touring in the U.S.
He explained that the increasingly bizarre political climate in the run-up to last year’s election became impossible to ignore and eventually seeped into the songwriting process. The result? Instead of just plain old love songs, American Love ended up morphing into a vehicle for love songs through the lens of the strange and troubling times in which we now find ourselves.
Angus delivered a fervent and fiery performance, supported nimbly by the rest of the group, including Kirty (keyboards/acoustic guitar/vocals), Jeffrey Lewis (bass), Kevin Black (guitar/vocals), Nick McKinlay (drums), and Lisa Lorenz (keyboards).
They burned through several songs off the new album, including the Elvis-Costello-esque standout “Julia,” the Springsteen-inspired “Why We Fight,” and the album’s title track “American Love,” which allowed ample opportunity for sing-a-long time with the crowd. Towards the end of their set, the band had champagne delivered to the stage and toasted the crowd for helping them revel in the release of American Love.
Next up, the main event, as headliners Said The Whale took the stage. This was the moment we at Rocktographers had been waiting for in the months leading up to the Vancouver-based Juno award-winning band’s appearance in Victoria. Needless to say, we’re big-time “Whalers,” which you’d know if you attended the March 20 Vinyl Envy listening party we organized ahead of the release of the group’s new album As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide, which hit stores and streaming services on March 31.
The new album features more of an electronic influence than past releases, but robust songwriting and an engaging live experience are still the core strengths of the current iteration of Said The Whale. The group dynamic has changed a bit since the departure of longtime bassist Nathan Shaw in 2016 and the announcement this January that drummer Spencer Schoening was also departing. This left the core trio of alternate frontmen/co-writers/guitarists Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft, along with keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown, to soldier on with new touring musicians backing them up.
To reinforce the theme of the night—new music—early on in the performance, Bancroft provided the caveat, “We’ll definitely be playing some old favourites, but we really want to share a lot of the songs off the new album with you guys.” So while they did pull out a few STW classics like “Camilo (The Magician)“ and “I Love You”, their set list was predominantly drawn from So Long As Your Eyes Are Wide. Starting off with the album’s lead single “Step Into the Darkness,” they moved through catchy pop-rock tunes “Heaven” and “Confidence,” through to the wistful “Emily Rose,” and closing out the show with the melancholic yet redemptive “Miscarriage,” the band’s set closely mirrored the varied and dynamic vibe of the new album to a tee.
The Said The Whale/Fast Romantics tour continued this week with dates in Vancouver and Kelowna, before moving on to the prairies over the next few days. We hope to see both bands back in Victoria sooner rather than later.