Canadian punk icon Headstones proves that rock ’n’ roll is not dead

Headstones with Bif Naked at the Commodore Ballroom, 11/10/17

Photo by Sharon Steele

Returning to Vancouver for only the second time since the band’s reunion in 2011, Headstones brought their heavy-guitar riffs and grungy anthems to back-to-back sold out shows this weekend at the Commodore Ballroom.

Kicking off on Friday night (Nov. 10), the band’s frontman Hugh Dillion commanded a sea of rough and restless fans in celebration of their newly released album, Little Army.

The night started with a wild and crazy set from fellow Canadian rocker Bif Naked. She had the crowd moshing and rocking to “Spaceman” and “I Love Myself Today,” and set the pace for the madness to ensue.

Soon after the opening set, the ballroom faded to darkness. A rhythmic stomping by the crowd shook the venue, a projection of a middle finger emerged, and Headstones were back in Vancouver.

“I’m back, now let’s get this show on the road,” shouted Dillon, raising the microphone stand above his head, saluting the fist pumps from the older crowd.

Headstones @ Commodore
Photo by Sharon Steele

Headstones opened with “For Your Consideration,” a fast-paced punk hit off their new album. Flying around the drum kit with blinding speed, newly acquired drummerJesse Labovitz introduced himself with poise and confidence. Acting as the band’s heartbeat through the 20-song setlist, Labovitz hit hard in his Vancouver debut.

Almost immediately, Dillon left the stage to engage with the crowd. As he danced around the upper levels of the ballroom, a flurry of security guards scrambled to secure and rearrange his never ending microphone cord. Dillon was full of attitude and no one could keep up. 

The energy in the pit complimented the band’s performance. A steady flow of die hard fans surfed the crowd, and most notably an older man wielding a cane was taken on a wild ride. Dillon’s infectious stare and sublime confidence made it hard to sit still. The use of strobe lighting and bursts of mist added to the intense atmosphere.

As the night continued to escalate, song after song was delivered with passion, grit, and attitude. Material from their 1996 album Smile and Wave ignited the older audience. “This is a song we wrote last century,” said Dillon. For a split second a feeling of greater nostalgia succumbed the ballroom and one could not help but smile. This feeling was soon overtaken by an obnoxious riff from lead guitarist Trent Carr.

Photo by Sharon Steele

Though brief, Dillon’s influx of emotion and intimacy was a refreshing contrast to his usual piss and vinegar narrative.

Near the end of the show, Dillon said, “It’s really great to be here. I dug myself out of Main and East Hastings 13 years ago, so when I say I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be here.” Referring to his battle with heroin addiction that resulted in the band’s break-up in 2003, Dillon showed Vancouver just how far he has come.

The setlist came to an end with their new single  Devil’s On Fire, and not surprisingly, it was presented and received with excitement and high energy. The band’s impressively consistent tempo came to a halt, Dillon threw his mic stand, and the band left the stage.

Once again, everything faded to black.

Suddenly, the crowd’s aggressive stomping, now rattling the ballroom, created a déjà vu moment from earlier in the night. Even after an hour an a half of high intensity chaos, Vancouver still hadn’t had enough.

Photo by Sharon Steele

Returning for a four-song-encore with a rejuvenated youthfulness, Headstones closed the show with fan-favourite “Cemetery,” effectively completing the intense, in-your-face, visceral, Headstones experience.

Though much has changed for the Headstones in the past three decades, this Canadian punk icon  can still deliver one hell of a rock show.

It is safe to say that Headstones are still alive and well.