Big Wreck with Jesse Roper at the Commodore Ballroom, 3/1/18
One of the nation’s favourite bands is on tour with some of our province’s most promising talent and Thursday night (March 1) marked night one of a back-to-back sold-out affair for their combined tour at our city’s Commodore Ballroom. Metchosin, BC’s Jesse Roper has joined Toronto’s Big Wreck around the halfway point of the In Loving Memory Of Tour, in support of Ian Thornley and company’s 20-year anniversary of the band’s debut album.
Roper joined Big Wreck in Winnipeg and continues to open for the “Blown Wide Open” hitmakers for roughly half of the difficult 35-date winter pilgrimage through (mostly) Canada. Having a seven-song allotment of time to showcase his ever-expanding repertoire of blues meets rocks Roper has modified his setlist to highlight his latest release Access to Infinity. Roper wasted little time getting the Commodore Ballroom audience to sway their hips to his impressive Allman Brothers-like chops. Slightly buried in the overall mix was Roper’s unbelievable guitar skills. Instead, a cranked to eleven bass guitar reigned most prominent on night one. However, the guitars did not see a sepulturing so intense that the B.C. native failed to get the crowd murmuring about his skills on the axe. Taking a moment to unveil his fabulous voice on their third track of the night “Cherry,” Roper dropped jaws as he proved that his outstanding pipes and cadence control are a tremendous compliment to his other musical talents.
Roper and cohorts did well to put themselves in the same league as the headliners on night one in Vancouver. The band out of the remote island town of Metchosin will expect an even heartier show of audience exuberance March 3rd when they showcase their latest effort Access to Infinity in neighbouring Victoria, for the first time since the album’s release.
Big Wreck took the stage with “Look What I Found” followed by “That Song” in front of a packed Commodore Ballroom crowd. The now four-piece (with a third guitar player in the wings) proceeded to impress in a way that we have become accustomed to here in Canada. With no less than a 16 effect pedal board in front of him, the Berklee School of music graduate along with the rest of the band played every track off of their 20-year-old and still relevant debut album. There was not a tonne of discourse between Thornley and the Commodore crowd Thursday night, as it seems the long winter tour in our country’s notoriously cold climate is starting to weigh on the alternative music icons. At one point between songs, Thornley voiced his feelings in just five words. “It’s been a long tour.”
As is usual for Thornley, any low energy level failed to emanate from the enigmatic singer while the music was playing. Thornley’s inescapably impressive playing and singing over the course of Big Wreck’s hour 90 minute set highlighted everything from vocal range to acute focus in even the smallest of details. Moreover, though Thornley is aware of everything from the guitar mix in each of his ears to someone in the crowd annoyingly clicking rather than clapping after each song, some of life’s other details escaped the soul of the group as displayed between “That Song” and “Ill Advice.”
“Thanks so much guys. We are celebrating 20 years of our first record, thanks for celebrating with us. Is it Thursday today, or is it Friday? Seven is not the right answer. All right, I’ll just fucking move on. Here is a song that was left off of the record and we used as a b-side. It’s a lot of fun to play, here is a song called “Ill Advice.”
Highlights included a heartfelt version of “Under The Lighthouse” as well as “The Oaf” (with a five-minute guitar solo) ensured that nary a soul in the packed venue would dare leave until the band’s single song encore was complete. Playing “Come Again” from Thornley’s solo time at 604 Records as the encore made for an intriguing choice over such fan favourites as “Albatross” or “Digging In”. Showing his gratitude to The Commodore Ballroom Thornley left the stage with perhaps the most obvious but effective sign-offs imaginable. “Thank you, Vancouver. We will see you tomorrow.”