Vanderslice still a cut above
Young indie types can be a dour, hard-to-impress bunch, and they were out in force to see electro-rocker John Vanderslice at the Media Club on September 16. Resplendent in their thick-rimmed glasses, alabaster, never-went-to-the-beach-all-summer complexions, and heavy cloaks of social awkwardness, it took 40 minutes of Vanderslice’s 70-minute set for those stiffs to finally warm up. But warm up they did, reenergizing the band as their pouts turned to smiles and they thrilled to that strange and unfamiliar emotion we humans call happiness.
Alright, enough making fun of the indie kids. Vanderslice opened his 70-minute set with “Too Much Time”…
…the strongest cut from his new album Romanian Names and one of the most beautiful songs he’s ever recorded. This gave way to a solid set of old and new favourites. Vanderslice’s carefully-produced recordings have a delicate quality that never seems to come through onstage, but this tour’s live arrangements did not disappoint, the familiar electronic elements effectively complimented by low-register acoustic instruments such as a stand-up bass, bass clarinet and baritone sax. Clearly delighted with the results, at one point he had his keyboardist and clarinetist replay part of a song unaccompanied by the rest of the band, simply because he thought their parts were so lovely they should be appreciated without the distractions of drums, guitar and vocals.
After an hour onstage the ever-cheerful Vanderslice wrapped the show with his signature unplugged encore, where the band came off stage with their instruments and played two acoustic songs in the middle of the club floor with the audience crowded around—a charming coda that brought the band and audience together like friends singing songs together at the beach. And since, as mentioned above, most of his audience never made it to the beach this summer, this warm and affectionate send-off only reconfirmed Vanderslice’s status as an essential indie artist.