April 19, 2011, London, England – I can’t explain why, but I have always been rather protective of The Dears. They’re a band that I’ve followed since their lounge inspired and critically acclaimed debut EP End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story. And yet despite years of hard work, touring, and fantastic albums they always seem to be just on the cusp of a breakthrough. Perhaps it’s just a classic case of wanting the good old Canadians to get what they deserve, and that’s why I take such issue with their recent release Degeneration Street getting some less than favourable press (including a harsh and unnecessary Pitchfork review). I’ve seen The Dears perform on countless occasions and was admittedly a little worried to see if all this had gotten them down a little. Needless to say, The Dears don’t need anyone to protect them. They’re doing just fine thanks, and dare I say I’ve never seen them so happy on stage.
The venue itself, The Borderline in London’s trendy Soho district, is certainly an interesting place. With a capacity of only 275 (sold out on this occasion), it is so strangely laid out that they actually have two TV monitors set up for those with obstructed views. Fortunately we found a spot that wasn’t completely blocked by either a bar or massive pole. Despite the weird set-up the sound was fairly decent and didn’t distract from the show itself.
The Dears started with a string of new songs including ‘Omega Dog’, ‘5 Chords’, and ‘Yesteryear’. Some actually come across live as heavy and almost classic rock sounding. Lead guitarist Patrick Krief is simply fantastic to listen to and watch. I can’t imagine that this material would come across as well live without him. A smattering of tunes followed, all from previous albums. Basically every period of their career was touched upon nicely as the crowd was treated to songs such as ‘Lost in the Plot’, ‘Whites Only Party’, and a superb version of ‘We Can Have It’.
Lead Murray Lightburn kept the evening light with plenty of in-between song banter and attempts at humour, including his best go at an East London accent. At one point between the main set and the encore, he came out and rambled on for quite some time about previous gigs and life in general. This was followed by an acoustic version of ‘The Second Part’ that gradually swelled into a full electric rendition as the members joined him on stage. The show ended with a triumphant ‘22: The Death of All the Romance’, leaving us wanting more, but alas the London curfew was in effect.
I cannot speak of The Dears without mentioning Murray’s voice. It is simply one of the most exquisite voices live. From low bass tones to falsetto, he never, ever misses the mark. He sings with soul and passion and perhaps it is some of this passion that continues to propel The Dears forward.
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