Review and photos – The Big Pink at Venue, Vancouver, March 13 2010
– review by Cass Grant/photos by Jessica Bardosh
I can honestly say I’ve rarely been as perplexed by a band as I was on Saturday night. The Big Pink? More like The Big Stink. It feels incredibly unfair for me to say that since I thought their debut album, A Brief History of Love, was pretty stellar, but something was definitely not jiving on the night they played the Venue.
Things I knew about the band before the show: they’re an English quote-unquote “electro-rocker duo”, “Big Pink” is also an album by The Band, and The Big Pink is best known for that one song from some TV commercial. None of this matters when it comes to putting on a good show, but it really is worth mentioning when the level of pretentiousness ramps up considerably during the live performances.
I should have known better when the band members strolled onstage to the opening song ‘Too Young To Love’ and a frenzied light display. Strobing backlight! Strobing backlight! Watch as lead vocalist Robbie Furze climbs on top of the speakers to pose dramatically, fists in the air! I must look like an aging rock god, yeah! Meanwhile, the crowd below (a cross-section of the punters typically filling the Venue before the 11pm nightclub rush) claps politely and waits for him to get on with it.
Let me now insert a number of adjectives that typically get bandied about during reviews of electronica-shoegazey-type bands: Atmospheric. Scuzzy. Intense. Ephemeral! Pedal synthy heavy guitar wall of noise – et cetera. None of this takes into account the fact that the sound levels seemed off.
Mostly, the duo, augmented by rhythm section, played tracks from the one record – as you’d expect on a debut-album tour – but you wouldn’t have known new songs “Twilight” and “These Arms” had slipped into the setlist if it weren’t for Furze’s brief introduction. (By the way, the lack of banter was a huge black mark in my books; shouting “Canada’s better than the U.S.” does not count.)
Here’s another word I found that fits the Big Pink bill: pretend-shoes. Furze’s bandanna’d, skull-emblazoned shirt getup was a throwback to the hip scene circa several years ago. And, you know, I totally respect whatever sartorial choices you make, but combined with the posturing and limited audience interaction, there was some major dissonance going on.
Perhaps if the crowd were dressed in a similar fashion the band would have looked less out of place, but people were sensibly-attired and cheerfully appreciative and failed to sneer or look condescending in the band’s general direction.
Were The Big Pink expecting a different sort of turnout? They might have been a bit miffed at the absence of hip young things, which would explain the unceremonious departure and lack of any encore. Or maybe I’m just reading into things too deeply, and am also incredibly biased.
Disappointment makes me a little less kind when reviewing in hindsight. But now when I listen to The Big Pink’s record post-show I can close my eyes and pretend that it’s as dramatic and effervescent and, maybe, real-shoes as I would like them to be.