Out and About: Our Lady Peace
    • FRIDAY, APRIL 06, 2012

    • Posted by: Don Saas

    Remember Almost Famous? It was a semi-autobiographical account of director/writer Cameron Crowe's time as a rock journalist for Creem and Rolling Stone as he traveled the country with Led Zeppelin (called Stillwater in the film). At the beginning of the film, William Miller (the Cameron Crowe author avatar) has attended a Stillwater show and he's trying to score an interview with the band. The tough bouncer at the venue's entrance is blocking his way (though letting the groupies in, natch) when Stillwater themselves show up and personally drag Miller into their fast paced world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Covering a concert for Canadian alt-rockers Our Lady Peace turned into my own personal Almost Famous moment thanks to miscommunications with the doorman and the simple coolness of the band's bassist, Duncan Coutts.

    At some point in the next couple weeks, we will run a feature article interviewing the band which I did the same day as Our Lady Peace's sold out show at Bowery Ballroom here in Manhattan. I interviewed the band's drummer, Jeremy Taggart, and their bassist, Duncan Coutts. I was also supposed to be on the press list for their show that night, but when I arrived at the venue for the concert, I had trouble getting in. As I was waiting outside the venue trying to solve the mix-up, the band's bassist walked by. We struck up a conversation (because I had interviewed him earlier), I told him about what happened, and he got me into the show personally. So, we just want to give a special shout-out of thanks to Duncan for helping us get into the show because it was an awesome set, and I would have been missing out on a great show if a simple snafu had kept me out.

    One of the many reasons we're glad we attended was the opening act, The Pack A.D., who blew all expectations of what an opener can accomplish out of the water. A two-girl garage rock band, the Pack A.D. are best described as the White Stripes if Jack White were a bad-ass chick, and had a voice like a cross between Chris Cornell and Merrill Garbus (aka the chick from tUnE-yArDs). Playing sloppy (the good kind), reverb-drenched guitar rock, the Pack A.D. were a revelation of visceral female rock-and-roll. Becky Black looks like Joan Jett, has one of the deepest and most impressive female vocal registers this side of tUnE-yArDs, and plays guitar like she just walked out of the recording studio of White Blood Cells.

    We could make the White Stripes comparisons all day. Drummer Maya Miller laid down simple (but effective in the song's context) beats while Becky Black made her guitar talk with an effortless mix of blues and punk riffs. I lost track of the number of finger-blistering guitar solos she wailed on after showcasing her stellar voice on the main verses. I had nearly considered skipping the opener for this show (despite the fact that I always try to cover the opening band), and the Pack A.D. made me very happy I kept to my normal routine because their set was simply an incredibly impressive display of guitar virtuoso, and everything we loved about the garage rock/punk revivalism of the early 2000s. We want more from this Canadian duo.

    Our Lady Peace took the stage at around 10:30, and from the opening refrains of "Allowance," the first track from new album Curve, OLP controlled the sold out audience of incredibly loyal fans for their entire hour and a half long set. Curve is the band's eighth studio album, so OLP had a wide pool of hits and singles to choose from. On every song that wasn't from the newest album (which still isn't out here in the States yet), the entire audience sang along to practically every word, alongside lead vocalist Raine Maida. This was both an awesome experience (seeing just how connected this band's fans are with Maida's cryptic and raw lyricism) and distracting because Maida's astounding falsetto and ever-shifting vocal register has always been a key aspect of the band's sound. With the audience singing along to almost every song, it gave his stellar voice less time to shine (even when he was singing into a megaphone, the audience occasionally drowned him out). Regardless, hearing the band perform classic cuts like "Starseed," "Innocent," "Clumsy," "Superman's Dead," and many others was a rewarding experience simply because of the sheer energy the band exuded on stage.

    For those unfamiliar with Our Lady Peace's music (they achieved their most mainstream prominence in the late 90s and early 2000s), they were one of the only major label "alt-rock" bands in that period still making raw and visceral rock in the face of waves of more corporate alt-rock groups like Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd. To me, they've always sounded like Led Zeppelin via Soundgarden with classic rock guitar hooks and melodies alongside the reverb and rawness of the grunge era. Guitarist Steve Mazur (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Matt Smith, aka the Eleventh Doctor) plays a mix of Jimi Hendrix filtered through Kim Thayil, and in a night of impressiveness, his guitar-playing was a wonder. He's the newest member of the band, but one can only imagine what they could have accomplished had he been there from the beginning.

    All in all, it was a stellar evening. Our Lady Peace have been together for twenty years now, and their veteran status and professional attitude shined through every second of the set. Still, despite reaching middle age, they still rocked harder than most younger bands I've seen, and at one point, Raine Maida climbed the nearly 20-foot balcony of the Bowery Ballroom and sang a number while clinging for dear life to the railing. That one moment perhaps sums up the power and spectacle that is Our Lady Peace in all their bad-ass glory. We'd recommend trying to catch any of their upcoming tour dates, but they're almost all sold out which is a shame because everyone should take the opportunity to see this band once. It will remind you of the glory days of alternative rock.

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