Review – Boris at the Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, Aug. 17 2014
– review by Thalia Stopa
It was a very unholy Sunday night at the Rickshaw this past weekend. Following local act Master Musicians of Bukkake, Los Angeles’ Marriages were next in line in the build-up to headliners Boris. West Coast metropolitan goth Emma Ruth Rundle commanded the stage in a dramatic sheer kimono layered over her little black dress and knee-high black boots. With her hair cascading over her shoulders and unruly bangs obscuring her death-glare, the singer/guitarist looked the picture of a mythic warrior leading bassist Greg Burns and drummer Andrew Clinco into battle. Over a distorted but sparse sonic landscape, her fierce growl and spine-tingling voice rang out with clarity and gut-wrenching emotion. A contemporary of LA musician Chelsea Wolfe and fellow disciple of PJ Harvey, the waif-ish songstress set the bar for intensity incredibly high.
Where Marriages possessed the depth of emotion, what they lacked was the volume and power of Boris. It was clear from the sight of the Japanese band’s set-up – including a translucent pink drum kit, distinctive retro Orange amplifiers, Zildjian gong centrepiece and Takeshi‘s double-necked guitar/bass – that we were in store for a true performance. With a great deal of grandeur the band played a merciless, nearly two-hour musical assault. The pageantry and drama came mostly from drummer Atsuo, who drummed with flourish and liberally injected whoops and growls throughout the night.
The trio was approaching the end of their North American Live Noise Alive Tour when they played Vancouver, but any tiredness they may have been feeling was undetectable. Shifting from metal to psychedelic and shoe-gaze, from sludgy to a fever-pitch speed, the one consistent throughout was noise. This also happened to be the title of their latest album, released this June, and the nineteenth studio album since the group formed over 20 years ago. However, the home listening experience can not remotely compare or communicate just how hard-rocking and cacophonous Boris could be. Whereas Takeshi’s poppy vocals were dominant on their recordings, live they were equally matched with distortion and effects-laden guitars. Guitarist and sole female member Wata soothed the audience with her breathy, feminine vocals for a single song but otherwise remained a mostly silent and elegantly composed stage presence.
The audience cheered and threw up their fists in support, but overall retained a dazed stance. There were a few moshers but not enough to sustain the momentum of a pit, or to support one fan’s ill-attempted crowd surfing for the final song. Boris strung out the fuzz and effects for their finale, while Atsuo climbed onto his drum kit and demanded a reaction from the audience. Try as we might, even the full-house crowd couldn’t nearly reciprocate the band’s energy or level of loudness, by this time played into sheer exhaustion.