Lake Street Dive played live in Vancouver on March 1. Appropriately, they played at a Main Street dive in the sketchiest part of the Vancouver East side. Doors were to open at 8pm, and the line snaked around the block well before then, and even long after, since the show sold out. A bouncer greeted my wife with a friendly, “Welcome!” Okay, I don’t know if this was standard procedure, but my explanation was that she was looking so good. Anyway, the interior was a club that was mostly like an empty barn, pretty much geared towards standing around the bar at the back or dancing in the stage room up front. But we found a rare sofa and got a chance to chill out before the show, lying back as we surveyed who was to be seen in the crowd.
The Suffers was the interesting opening act that took the stage at 9pm sharp. As an eight piece that included talented trombone and trumpet players, they got the crowd worked up. The dance floor was full, ready for Lake Street Dive (LSD) when they took the stage at about quarter past 10pm.
Lake Street Dive was absolutely amazing and you simply should not ever miss the chance to see them live. They are stellar on their albums, but this is a band that excels when playing live. Their talent is so immense that they are actually that rarest of breeds: musicians who are even better live. This is how music was meant to be experienced!
The excitement and energy that they bring to their live show is quite astonishing. It’s hard to believe, but the live versions of their songs are even better than the recorded ones. There are sometimes extended bits, new improvisations, and — of course — delightful interactions with the crowd.
LSD vocalist Rachael Price remarked early on about the sea of faces on the dance floor and how they were sending an incredible energy to the musicians on stage. The band loved the crowd, and the crowd loved them back. It was a perfect show, almost two hours long. Take a look at the set list below. Notice where it says that the encore is at LSD’s discretion. Well, guess what they chose to do!
Because the band had had so much fun with the crowd, LSD gave their Vancouver audience, as the encore performance, a stunning live version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Maybe you’ve seen the YouTube video version of LSD’s cover of this classic song, but the live version was even more entertaining — a truly amazing and impressive feat. It brought the house down, and the crowd freaked out and had a blast at every point during the song. We said goodbye to LSD with thunderous, roaring applause.
Besides “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the other great cover of the evening was Annie Lennox’s “Broken Glass” — which was a completely magical experience! The original song is mighty fine, but I dare say that this was the perfect cover, given that the cover was even better than the original. And that they pulled it off live with such an intricate and exciting arrangement! It was totally mind-blowing.
You can see from the set list below that the pacing of the show was a work of art. “Elijah” was introduced by a whip smart Michael Calabrese drum solo. By the way, why don’t more drummers set their drum kit up sideways like he does? Not only can the crowd watch the drummer better, he can communicate with the other musicians on stage much better.
“Elijah” also ended with a dueling bass vs. drums freakout session, as Bridget Kearney jumped onto the drum riser for some insane antics with Calabrese. I have to say that her amazing playing all night song was like a secret thread stitching everything together via an invisible dimension. What a talent!
Mike “McDuck” Olson played nimble guitar throughout the evening but also switched over to trumpet whenever required. McDuck simply slayed the crowd with his sweet trumpet tone — equally nimble with his brass work as he is on guitar. This guy is a connoisseur of rare sounds and I love how he has mastered the art of timbre.
Every song of the evening had special live features that caused jaws to drop. One example would be the way “So Long” was played, which won me over to appreciate its many underestimated beauties. “So Long” starts only with Rachael singing and also some tastefully spare accompaniment from McDuck on guitar, but then the song builds and builds until finally the whole band comes in and, more and more, generates unprecedented passion with LSD’s killer live dynamics.
If you ask me, did I enjoy the concert? I only got two words for you: “Hell, yeah!”
If LSD is coming your way, don’t miss the chance to see them live. They are one of the greatest live bands in the history of music. Each member of the quartet inhabits the upper echelons of musical talent. Each person brings so much to this ensemble — including superb vocals from every member, in order to harmonically craft a rich, and full, living wall of sound.
Rachael Price has charismatic vocal talent that has to be heard live to be believed. Some sound systems highlight how a merely mortal vocalist is really smaller than life; but Rachael’s magical voice is so much larger than life that it completely takes over the sound system and bends it effortlessly to her will. When you hear her sing live, it’s like a miracle is happening. It’s hard to describe the whole effect, but the total musical alchemy achieved by this quartet is something quite special. With rare style and grace they elevate even novelty songs like “Side Pony” into the most satisfying of musical experiences.
Three cheers for Lake Street Dive! Long may they thrive!