The Weather Station rises to meet winds of change

The Weather Station with James Elkington, 11/08/17

Photo courtesy of kutx.org

On Wednesday (Nov. 8) The Weather Station brought their rich vocals, evocative song-writing and a new expression of sonic depth and power to the Fox Cabaret. 

Warming up the crowd first was James Elkington, British transplant and founding member of the indie-alt-country band The Zincs, who split up in 2007. Known as a guitarist, the 46-year-old has supported a range of artists over the years, including Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.

This time, Elkington took the stage with songs from his first solo album in 16 years. Released last summer, the warm but moody sounds of Wintres Woma were fitting for Wednesday’s chilly rain.

Listening to Elkington live is a decidedly different experience than listening to the record through headphones or on vinyl. While recording the album, Elkington exercised his multi-instrumental chops. He arranged and played guitar, banjo, and harmonica, and a handful of other musicians added bass, percussion, cello, and violin.

These arrangements present a challenge when bringing the songs to life on stage. The live show lacked a certain depth. At times, Elkington’s voice sounded thin, but it was consistently supported by his deft guitar picking. The songs were less atmospheric live, and chatter at the back of the venue, dropped glasses and clinking change detracted from Elkington’s efforts.

Ultimately, though, Elkington’s earnest stage presence, sharp playing and narrative lyrics were well-suited to open for Paradise of Bachelors label-mate The Weather Station.

“It’s probably too early in the set to ask you to buy the record,” he said, joking that he had bought more records while on tour than he had sold. Elkington closed his 30-minute set with an instrumental rendition of the traditional Celtic song The Parting Glass.

The crowd had filled out by the time The Weather Station appeared. Fronted by Tamara Lindeman, the four-piece from Toronto drew an audience with a wider range of ages than is perhaps usual at Fox Cabaret.

The Weather Station at the Fox Cabaret 11/08/17. Photo by Brenna Owen.

They’ve been making music since 2006, and making waves in Canadian indie folk since their 2011 breakthrough album All of It Was Mine. The self-assured title lends insight into Lindeman’s delicate yet rich vocals and confident song-writing. It’s a prelude to the success of their next full-length record, Loyalty, which was a 2015 long-lost nominee for the Polaris Prize.

With their latest self-titled and self-produced release, The Weather Station’s growing confidence and urgency comes to a head. The first track on the album, “Free,” opens with lush, multi-instrumental chords followed by Lindeman’s vocals and refreshing blend of self-confidence and vulnerability. “All these years I have followed you; it never occurred to you to follow me,” she sang resolutely.

It’s this song, played a few songs into an hour-long set, which really loosened up the crowd—mirroring Lindeman, the crowd moved both purposefully and softly.

Lindeman’s voice rises to the occasion of relatively less delicate, more layered instrumentals on the latest release. “We’re not quiet anymore,” Lindeman said, her own clear response to today’s divisive political forces. Older songs still peppered the set and gelled nicely with her current sound and themes—particularly the 2015 song “Way It is, Way It Could Be.” It was an intentional selection of songs that call to mind the phrase, “The personal is political.”

Lindeman didn’t talk too much on stage, relying instead on her strong musical presence to connect with the crowd. She is a storyteller, and her lyrics are potently relatable. With the other band members, too, Lindeman appears to communicate seamlessly and clearly without words. However, she couldn’t resist joking about a sign she had seen for pumpkin spice yoga pants, winking at the Vancouver crowd.

Returning to the stage for an encore alone, without the support of her band, Lindeman asked if there were any requests. She playfully denied a handful before playing “I Mined” from Loyalty. It was a return to the sweet, acoustic intimacy that has drawn fans in to The Weather Station over the years.

“The wind had changed and the rain was relentless,” Lindeman sang. “My slow heart wanted only what was endless—to be helpless.” Lindeman bared her softness, generosity, vulnerability, and strength, a gift to the crowd during challenging times.