Concert review—July Talk at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, March 29
- by Shawn Conner
July Talk played the first to two shows at the Commodore on Wednesday night.
Now 11 years into its career, the Toronto act is plateauing. The new album, Remember Never Before, can be seen as a response to the pandemic in more ways than one. Besides the various life changes that it caused, Covid-19 also stalled a lot of careers.
July Talk has the songs, the sound, and the glamour—led by the two-person front team of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay—to be much bigger than they are. They definitely deserve an American audience.
One would think that talk-show talent-bookers would have discovered these guys by now. With the heat generated by Dreimanis and Fay alone, the group is last-five-minutes catnip for the Kimmel or Colbert shows.
During Wednesday night’s show, I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to walk into a small club in a city like Seattle and Minneapolis with low to no expectations and seeing July Talk rip it up. That would be an unforgettable experience.
July Talk and Remember Never Before
The current tour relies as much on synths as guitars. At times, if I closed my eyes, I could hear Metric, if Metric had a gravelly-voiced Tom Waits growling along with Emily Haines. There were also nods to glam-rock in a couple of songs.
If the title Remember Never Before wasn’t a tip off, then the between-song references to the pandemic were. It’s an album heavily influenced, at least lyrically, by the upside-down events of the last few years.
There were references to Mother Nature on the set closer “I Am Water.” The band acknowledged working and playing on unceded lands. Walking into the Commodore, one found notices on July Talk letterhead saying that the show was a safe space for everyone and their “beautiful bodies.”
The audience was mostly male and millennial, with a few grey-haired Gen-Xers like myself.
The songs are strong, and like a lot of July Talk material sounds as though it was made to be played live. On Wednesday night the band gave us a big rock show with plenty of hooks, but I wanted more.
Perhaps my expectations were too high.
Crown Lands open
Opening band Crown Lands is a two-piece from Ontario that is no stranger to Rush.
Most of their songs sounded as though they had begun as jams based on intros to “The Spirit of Radio” and the like.
On its own, the group’s throwback sound is decidedly niche. As an opener for July Talk, the juxtaposition of musical styles was inspired, whatever your feelings about ’70s/80s Canadian prog-rock.