BANNERS at the Commodore Ballroom, 10/26/18
UK-based artist Michael Joseph Nelson brought his live band to the Commodore Ballroom Friday night for an intimate display of heart-tugging alternative rock.
While the streets outside Vancouver’s historic music venue were swarming with costume-clad young adults enjoying the Friday night before Halloween, the mood inside the Commodore was far removed from the commotion on Granville Street.
The Commodore was at half its capacity with an audience ranging in ages. You had your young friends catching a show before the clubs, and you had your adult couples there to enjoy the music they’d come to love together in a live setting.
BANNERS is an all-ages band. The songs have the pop charisma to attract young listeners while holding a mature and genuine rock sound that will just as easily appeal to their parents. There very well may have been more of the latter in attendance as many younger fans were surely conflicted with other plans.
Though BANNERS would have appreciated seeing twice as many people on the floor of the Commodore, there’s something to be said for performing in front of a smaller crowd. Everything felt more personal as Nelson stood behind the mic and bantered with the enthusiastic audience.
Hailing from Liverpool, Nelson spoke with a thick accent and a light, raspy (overcoming a cold) voice that was tough to hear from the rear of the crowd. The vocalist had a charming bashfulness about him and even seemed a bit awkward during certain points of his chatter.
This didn’t hold him back from laying it all out as they played through every one of his songs over the course of the set, along with two new ones.
The title track from 2017’s Empires on Fire EP was a powerful display and the following track, “Firefly,” further showed the splendor of their piano-rock sound.
Nelson had his bandmates join him around the mic for an acoustic performance of their hit “Someone to You.” This stripped-down version was a perfect showing of the singer’s vocal talent, and the band members complimented his delivery with a beautiful harmony. It breathed new life into the alternative radio single and was a pleasure to witness.
It was interesting to hear from Nelson about his thoughts on Vancouver. He told a story about a faint memory of visiting the city as a young child with his family.
“Vancouver’s always been this kind of magical place to me,” he said before striking the opening chords to the highlight song of the night, “Holy Ground.”
“Holy Ground” is a song about cherishing memories and the people you made them with. It evokes emotions that so few songs can attest to, and was a truly special moment to behold.
It’s tough to say if the audience would agree with that statement, as the applause was ten-fold for following track “Start A Riot” from the band’s debut EP. This continues the trend of older material having more influence on fans than new material, something witnessed at so many shows.
“Shine A Light,” the song that put them on the map, came in second to last with the audience joyously singing along. The band finished off the night, void of an encore, with, once again, “Someone to You,” this time performed as a full band.
It was a short tour run of North American dates for the UK band, and now they’re heading back home. It may take a while though, as Nelson expressed disdain for supposedly having to drive to Toronto.
“We love you, Canada. You just need to be a bit smaller.”