I never thought I’d see the Constantines again after they played the Palace Nightclub in Halifax six years ago. That was because 1) I lived in a small town where bands didn’t frequent, and 2) a couple of years later the Cons went on indefinite hiatus. But last February the Guelph five-piece regrouped and announced a string of shows surrounding the 11th anniversary of their excellent breakthrough album, Shine a Light. Vancouver was lucky enough to have drawn the Wonka ticket in their reunion lottery, and last night I wormholed through time back to first-year university.
Before I tripped through time, though, Vancouver rockers Ladyhawk took the stage. The Commodore’s floor seems springier every time I’m there, but by the middle of the set I couldn’t tell anymore because the crowd was jumping and pushing (and helping each other up) full-tilt. The veteran band brought their own legion of dedicated fans; in fact, I have to hand it to them: they were livelier than the crowd that stuck around up front for the Constantines.
Expectedly, as a reunion show, last night was pure nostalgia. The Constantines mostly culled from Shine a Light, their more refined yet still hard-hitting follow-up, Tournament of Hearts, and their final album, the dynamic powder-keg, Kensington Heights. The Cons opened with the rumbling “Draw Us Lines”, just the first in a wave of thunderclap riffs. Mighty fists punched towards the sky, and the crowd roared along: “Night time, any time, it’s all right!” “Working full time!” The power of a song really hits me when I hear a crowd sing along. And when a crowd sings louder than the band, as the surprisingly young audience did, I can’t help but smile at our collective delight.
Drummer Doug MacGregor, primary keyboardist Will Kidman, and bassist Dallas Wehrle all stood with tambourines and gave a quick shake, introducing the lurching “Insectivora”. Here the band skillfully compensated for the lack of trumpets by amplifying the bass as singer-guitarist Bryan Webb shredded his six-string more vigorously than on record.
The Cons’ hard riffs came in catchy packages too. “Young Lions” and “On To You” pumped the crowd full of exuberant energy. ( “Oh-oh, I’m on to you!” they echoed.) And although the Constantines didn’t have Feist at their side, songs like “Soon Enough” reminded fans that the Constantines could be sentimental too.
From the Constantines’ first, self-titled album, only “Young Offenders”, “Arizona”, and “Hyacinth Blues” slipped into the set. But these earlier songs pleased as much as any of the band’s more recent material.
It’s no wonder why the likes of Weakerthans front man John K. Samson and Feist have, at some point, named the Constantines their favourite band: the Constantines are one of the hardest-rocking live bands: loud, charged, and crisp. I’ll be satisfied if they never write another song, as long as I can relive night’s like Wednesday at the Commodore every six years.