I know I love the Ballantynes. I catch them whenever I can. They get better every time I see them. The East Van seven-piece was in fine form last Thursday at the Imperial, kicking things off with a bang and quickly moving on to “Stay” off their 2012 seven-inch, “Misery / Stay”. Set staple “No Love”, which bandleader Jarrod O’Dell noted “speaks for its damn self,” injected much fun into the room with Jennifer Wilks’ and Vanessa Dandurand’s sad-sassy call-and-answer with O’Dell (“One,” “When you call me much too late,” “Two…”). These playful “Sickos” followed that up with a boozy little tune “about drinking too much, with someone you like too much, and then throwing up,” as Dandurand put it. “Would you hold my hair? / Would you hold my hand?” Oh, sweet, sweet nausea.
O’Dell’s beloved Hammond – which didn’t survive their most recent road trip and is now recuperating in the shop – was the only element missing from the Ballantynes’ performance, but a loaner Nord Electro 2 from buddy and soul-partner in crime Gordon Rempel (the Beladeans) more than made up for it.
The band wrapped up with a few new numbers, the last of which was led off beautifully by Wilks, and quickly morphed into a spirited closer that rattled and rolled with the sweaty, reckless abandon of homestretch relief.
I filled the intermission time with a solitary vanilla Bullseye on the Main St. sidewalk, the din of impressed soul fans after a raucous Ballantynes set on my left, the wild and constant buzz of East Hastings on my right.
Post-smoke, the Expressions put us back in the mood with an instrumental intro until the powerhouse that is Lee Fields walked out, all swagger and smile. “I know you’re comin’ to party, so we might as well get this party started!” The man knows what his crowd wants, and he delivers.
Fields had us gladly answering his “Somebody scream again!” requests by the middle of the first song. He shimmy-shuffled across the stage and punctuated the exchange with his own wild holler. His appropriately slotted second number echoed the feeling in the room – “I Still Got It”. “Take my hat, my shoes, my girl / I still got it.” The how-to-be-cool anthem manages to champion the integrity of substance and the flash of style all at once.