The Bravery at Venue, Vancouver, Nov 11 2009
– review by Rachel Fox/photos by Kiri Rostad
November 11 is Remembrance Day. A somber morning spent honouring Canada’s service men and women at a large service Vancouver’s Victory Square was still very much in my conscious mind when the Bravery took the stage that night. The irony didn’t escape me.
The band came out in something of a choreographed formation, and almost immediately the stripped and bare surroundings of a stage bathed in colour evoked the signature treatment offered by Anton Corbijn for Depeche Mode.
Lead singer Sam Endicott took to the stage donning a black and white striped shirt, Greek fisherman’s hat, cravat (yes, this review is about you) and a nautically inspired gold-button blazer. He has great bone structure, looking sharp rather than goofy in his captain ensemble, and channeling the stylishly distant Ralph Lauren ads of the ’80s more than the ironic homage offered by Koko in the Yacht Rock series of shorts. (Ralph Lauren, the American designer best known for his sporty-casual American aesthetic, is really Ralph Lifshitz from the Bronx, and he probably never stepped foot on a yacht until he reinvented himself.)
Bass player Mike Hindert was more demure in a grey suit (requisite poppy in place), and guitarist Michael Zakarin pulled off polka dots and a skater boy haircut (adorable). In fact, all five of The Bravery looked like they put some effort into their appearance. That’s a nice change; it’s rare for me to actually see sexy look like that.
It seems unfair to paint all emo musicians with the broad strokes and moody colours of the Joy Division/Cure brush, and yet it must be done. Endicott was pleasantly high-energy and though clearly schooled in the vocal stylings of Robert Smith, he came across as happier and more up-tempo, occasionally sounding like an exotic bird calling in the wild. The overall effect left me longing for “Friday I’m in Love”-era Cure.
I liked watching him play guitar – with the instrument slung low on slim hips, he strums energetically. His movements were sensual and as his musical energy connected with mine on the floor, enveloping my body, I (naturally) processed both the guitar and the way he played it as an erotic experience.
Guitar, perhaps more than other instruments, appears as an extension of the player’s manhood, and observing how Endicott holds this phallic symbol is, of course, entirely sexual. I may as well be watching him masturbate. Any woman will tell you the level of a man’s enthusiasm when masturbating is a reliable indicator of how he will fuck them. It’s very individual, very personal, very revealing, and very animalistic. I liked what I was seeing and was feeling turned on, which is my favorite way to feel at a concert. I was getting Rock Star Boyfriend vibes.
And then, sadly everything changed.
He started talking.
Endicott asked the crowd what “all the flowers were doing everywhere.” Considering that his bassist was wearing one, you’d think he may have noticed and maybe even inquired as to “why.”
True, poppy culture is more prominent in Canada than in the U.S., the home of The Bravery; but in that moment I was unimpressed with his ignorance and casual take on the occasion.
At another point, Endicott started talking about his favorite book when he was growing up, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, as he sent out a song “to Ponyboy and Sodapop.” Sure, I loved that book growing up (who didn’t?), but that particular revelatory admission struck me as pedestrian. In his skinny tight jeans, red belt, and with muscled guns gleaming under the lights, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the young Endicott identified himself as a “hood” or a “soc.”
And then, the a-ha moment that rose like a wave of sick through my soul: “Oh, God – he’s a … hipster.”
The erection in my brain went limp.
Just as my mind wanders when with a bad lover, I began thinking too much. I went from being with a Rock Star Boyfriend at a concert to being with a high school boyfriend in his parents’ basement, and he is doing a poor imitation of Billy Corgan while I am stuck in the tedious space between feigning enthusiasm and clockwatching.
“Oh God, just please stop talking. You’re ruining it,” I thought.
Furthering this feeling of uninspired juvenilities was the head-slappingly poor choice of footage projected during “Hatefuck”: a black and white, ’50s-era film of two women binding and beating a third, punctuated by gun imagery. I suppose there may be some tenuous connection to be made between the images and the song title, but it seemed glorified and obvious rather than pointed, and hollow more than thoughtful. [Not to put too fine a point on it, but similar accusations have followed The Bravery, some of whom were once in a band called Skabba the Hut, since its inception.-Ed.]
The evening’s high point occurred when Hindert took to the mic. Stoic through much of the set, the poppy-wearing bassist provided that pivotal moment that every concert requires, the one in which the audience is stunned into musical submission. His soft, sexy growl owned us all for a few minutes.
Like Yoda, he said little to nothing the entire time and then when he did open his mouth wielded his Jedi power in a performance that actually altered the mood of the crowd. Hindert is a great force within The Bravery, and it would serve them well to use him more in the future.
The choral “oohs” and “ahhhs” that I liked so much on The Bravery’s melodic, moody 2007 double album The Sun and the Moon was drowned out during much of the show, suggesting that this particular aspect either doesn’t translate well to the stage or that a set list comprised of so many new, unfamiliar songs from their latest release Stir the Blood is simply less sonically interesting.
However, the band did cover the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter”, at which point the ”oohs” and “ahhhs” joyfully appeared. Here, the keyboards seemed especially layered and effective, more lush and dreamy, than during the rest of the show. Any time a band offers an audience untested material, the pressure to tear the roof off the joint and blow the crowd out of the water increases. Honestly, they didn’t.
More Bravery at Venue Vancouver photos: