Friday, November 2, 2007

The Weakerthans @ The Trocadero 10/29/07

One of the more stranger-named bands takes their name from a movie, called "The Lover." The line is "Go ahead, I'm weaker than you could possibly imagine."

It was disappointing to see the Trocadero only about 2/3 full for this great underappreciated band who might as well hail from Guam (actually, Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada). Jim Bryson and the Last Town Chorus were the opening acts. I arrived just as Bryson was finishing up his set, so I had to sit through every pain-inducing minute of Last Town Chorus's set, which seemed to go on for a really long time. But probably was only about 40 minutes. Neither act employed a drummer, so by the time the Weakerthans came on, it was a treat just to hear a rhythm section again.

The Weakerthans sounded great live. Singer/songwriter/guitarist John Samson has an uncanny resemblance to the guy who played Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld. He walked onstage wearing a cap with "W" on it, I'm guessing an old Winnipeg Jets cap. Samson has said he writes what he describes as "first person fictional" songs. Winnipeg is a cold prairie town and the sport of Curling is one of their favorite past times. And that subject is covered on the new album in "Tournament of Hearts."

And the bass player, John Sutton, looks like a combination of Neil Young and Jack Black. Samson's music has been compared to Bob Mould, Michael Penn, and Elvis Costello and I think all the comparisons are pretty much on the mark. He comes from more of a speed punk background, but the rest of the band has always been more poppy and melodic. And opening act Jim Bryson also played with them as a 3rd guitarist/keyboardist.

It was a great set.too. They played for about 90 minutes. And really other than "Watermark", "This Is a Fire Door Never Leave Open", and "A New Name For Everything" I heard pretty much everything I wanted to hear. And I got to hear one my favorites, "Exiles Among Us" to close the night. It seemed to be a completely impromptu 2nd encore, as the crowd refused to leave so after about 5 minutes they returned for 1 more. And it was the first time they had played "Exiles" live in awhile. Their rustiness showed in the beginning as they appeared to be playing it at the wrong speed, but by the end of the 1st verse, they got back in sync.

They've been leaving crowd favorite "One Great City!" (aka "I Hate Winnipeg") off of most of their setlists on this tour. So that was a treat when Samson opened the encore with a solo acoustic version of this.

The banter was pretty funny most of the night. There were a few equipment malfunctions, but the band seemed un-fazed by it. During the last song about Virtue the cat, many in the crowd were making "meow" sounds during the quiet parts. And Samson cracked up and had to recover to finish the song. And about 4 songs into the encore he looked at the hand-scribbled setlist and quipped, "This encore feels like it's longer than the set."

The songs were pretty evenly split among their 3 most recent albums, with the set more weighted to 2003's Reconstruction Site. They had only 1 song from their 1999 debut Fallow, 7 songs from 2000's Left and Leaving, 9 songs from Reconstruction Site, and 6 songs from the new album Reunion Tour.

Set list
1. Psalm For the Elks Lodge Last Call
2. Civil Twilight
3. Our Retired Explorer (aka Oh, Antarctica)
4. Benediction
5. Reconstruction Site
6. Aside
7. Night Windows
8. Relative Surplus Value
9. Everything Must Go
10. Sun in an Empty Room
11. Left and Leaving
12. Tournament of Hearts
13. The Reasons
14. Time's Arrow
15. History to the Defeated
16. Plea From a Cat Named Virtute

17. One Great City! (aka I Hate Winnipeg)
18. My Favorite Chords
19. Pamphleteer
20. Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionist
21. Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
22. (Manifest)

23. Exiles Among Us

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