Tender at the Cobalt 9/18/17
London-based indie-pop band Tender played their first live show in Canada at the historic Cobalt in Vancouver on Monday (Sept. 18). Childhood friends James Cullen and Dan Cobb formed Tender when they were experimenting with electronic music in 2015, with influences such as French band Air, Tame Impala, Glass Animals, and Leisure from New Zealand. The endeavour began when their self-released “Armour” gathered several hundred thousand plays on Soundcloud, landing it on the Reddit front page. Now with over 100,000,000 streams across Youtube, Spotify and Soundcloud, the duo, along with bassist Thom Allen and drummer Josh Gimber, decided to embark on a musical adventure far away from their English home.
It was a dreary Sunday night, with ominous clouds ready to drench Vancouverites at any instant. Despite this, the decades-old bar housed a significant number of concert-goers. Jessicka opened for Tender, and the singer’s high-pitched vocals paired with deep bass tones created entrancing ephemeral vibes. Amidst the emotional intensity, though, was a moment of comic relief when the bassist’s chord broke and someone from the crowd offered to help him repair it. “Marlo saved the day!”, the eccentric vocalist exclaimed. The Cobalt’s small, intimate space allowed for fans to interact with the performers, which made for an ecstatic ambience.
The stage was flooded in blues and violets, culminating in a suspenseful mood, fitting for the deeply moving spectacle the fans were about to witness. The crowd’s excitement could barely be contained as they watched Tender setting up, its members identically dressed in black t-shirts and jeans. Although they had spent the previous night getting lost in Stanley Park and obliterated at the Fox Cabaret, the four Englishmen appeared equipped to entertain. The tune “Afternoon” finally initiated the performance, creating a cathartic release as screams pervaded through the bar. The faster-paced “Outside” followed, and the attendees oscillated with the upbeat percussions. Dan addressed the crowd, “We made it to our first-ever Canadian show, this is great!”, to which someone yelled, “Do you need a cup of tea?”, resulting in a humorous exchange between them.
In contrast to the rather depressive theme of their music, the band members were quite approachable and amusing. When introducing “Trouble” from their debut album Modern Addiction, Dan said “it’s a bit of a slow one so if you want, just sway quite slowly.” Laughter erupted throughout the room. The album is centred on a disastrous yet beautiful break-up, with every song a reflection of pain juxtaposed with a deeper understanding of oneself. The melancholy tune was contrasted by songs like “Design”, an invigorating melody that dragged even the most immovable bodies onto the dance floor. The percussion and bass-heavy “Violence” and the newly-released “Machine” from Modern Addiction also stimulated the raucous crowd, with everyone singing along: “Always staring at your phone, there’s nobody in there with a life worth living…”, the lyrics a direct commentary on our current societal obsession with technology.
James expressed shock when people recognized the recently-released “Nadir”, reciting every word along with him as his soft-spoken, comforting voice passionately elaborated on the inevitable fade in a relationship. The final song was paradoxically the first song they ever released, “Legion”, ending their set with a dramatic, harmonious closure akin to that experienced after a toxic relationship.
Photay from Brooklyn subsequently took over with his other-worldly musical flavours, creating unique electronic tunes comparable to the XX, and the audience was cast into an state of everlasting trance for the remainder of the evening.