Words by Shain Shapiro
Nada Surf & Rogue Wave :: 03.11.06 :: Lee's Palace :: Toronto, ON
Airports are unique environments for human emotion. The episodic, transitory nature of airports bring out the most primal of emotions in its itinerant inhabitants, from drawn-out cries of longing to soothing sneers of escapism. For people watching, airports can't be beat; frustration, greed, happiness, sorrow or a muddled mix of the lot, it is all here, always open and always turned on. I am a devout social ethnographer, so what could be better?
Yet, I only visit airports to fly in and out of them. Parking is too expensive to continuously visit airports just to people watch, and to be honest, the sheer idea comes off a little creepy in theory, so I am reluctant to try it in practice. But life is so bleak, impersonal and autonomous. Instead of sparking conversation on the bus, iPods assume the position of one's travel companion. Arguably, the art of public debate is more or less dead. So if not at airports, then where is the honesty, the love, the hate, the passion, the fury and the jubilance that ignite life? Well, there are many outlets. Music is a frontrunner. Music emotes the aforementioned, especially when performed live. To reach emotional acme, just add the right circumstances into the mix, like the final night of a lengthy tour with a sold-out crowd in tow. Not an airport, but just as emotionally sumptuous. For example, take Nada Surf and Rogue Wave's tour-ending show in Toronto.
Both bands have been enjoying resounding success as of late, despite joining forces at different parts in their career. While Zach Rogue's songwriting vehicle has achieved critical acclaim alongside audience recognition with his sophomore effort, Descended by Vultures, Nada Surf is rejuvenated and back on track as their career-defining sixth release, The Weight Is a Gift, has returned them to the days when they were topping the MTV charts in 1995 with their major label debut, High/Low. With the tour already a decisive success south of the border, the traveling circus arrived to a sold-out Lee's Palace for one last send-off before the bands separate and return home. With the playbill smeared in copious amounts of alcohol, myriads of cross-collaboration, a few odd, rarely played cover songs and a bunch of stories quelled from the last month, the two bands pulled off one of the best nights of music Toronto has seen all year.
Rogue Wave began the night just after 10 p.m. and ran through over an hour's worth of whispery folk and alternative country-drenched indie-pop. Descended by Vultures is a fantastic album, and the quartet's opening set exemplified that, as Rogue and company ran through three-quarters of the album, including "Publish My Love," "Bird on a Wire," "California" and "Catform." In addition, a few older songs and a unique interpretation of Buddy Holly's "Everyday" rounded out the set. While each rendition mirrored the output on the album more often than not, it didn't matter, as Rogue's emotive, highly intricate melodic structures, poignant instrumental interplay, and quirky vocal aesthetic elevated the songs past needing any extended improvisation. The best songs make you think more about yourself than the song, and Rogue Wave's gems are deeply meditative. For example, Matthew Caws from Nada Surf never left the side of the stage throughout the entire set, except to come on stage to sing back-up for a few songs. Otherwise, he was with the rest of us - just as inebriated, in deep and detached from the world outside, and enraptured in emotion. Just like any busy day at the airport.
After a bittersweet exit, Nada Surf emerged forty-five minutes later. With all four members of Rogue Wave and a few female counterparts listening intuitively alongside a half-empty bottle of tequila at the side of the stage, the Seattle-via-New York trio immediately delved into the bulk of The Weight Is a Gift, plus older staples off Proximity Effect and Let Go. Each song, regardless of album, emphasized Nada Surf's experiential skill in disseminating opulent, thoughtful American pop music. From the uplifting "Always Love" and the euphonious "Concrete Bed" to oldies "80 Windows" and "Popular," it was one perfect pop song after another, consistently wielded off bursting with emotion and maturity. Song after song was tight, collected and poised. In addition, the energy in the room was buttressed by the four chaps in Rogue Wave who constantly jumped onstage, sang back-up sporadically and danced up a storm on stage while showering Nada Surf in tequila in the process. This was a raucous, ebullient affair, complete with a seven-song encore, an appearance by longtime friend and Torontonian Howie Beck, a rarely played The Smith's cover, more tequila, a relentlessly enthusiastic crowd, and the naïve pipedream that a night like this - cancel that - a tour like this will never end.
This was a long, drawn-out, highly emotional goodbye, worth every bittersweet moment. It was like the luggage had already been sent away, customs had been cleared, and the boarding had commenced, yet the two parties separating were simply unwilling to say their final goodbyes. Yet, when the show finally ended along with the tour, no one in the band or audience sordidly slumped away. It is too hard to do that when you can't wipe the sweat encapsulating the drunken smile off your face. As Nada Surf predicted in The Weight Is a Gift, this was one hell of a party. Fuck ya! I prefer this much more than airports.
JamBase | Toronto
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