Marianas Trench carve out a place for pop punk in 2019

Marianas Trench and Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine at the Orpheum Theatre, 3/30/19

Photo by Karolina Turek

Quintessential Canadian pop-punk band Marianas Trench played an electrifying set that was equal parts nostalgic hits and an evolved new sound Friday night at the Orpheum.

As leather jackets and hair dye dotted the audience, Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine played their first notes.

The winners of reality competition The Launch, the duo switched up the classic rock band structure by prominently featuring samplers and loop pedals alongside the guitar and drums.

Jamie Fine’s seriously impressive voice was the real highlight, even nailing a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”

Marianas Trench showed off their raw talent early by opening with the a cappella track “Eleonora,” setting the tone and drawing people in immediately.

Moving right into new single “Only the Lonely Survive,” it became evident just how tailored to live performance the band’s stadium-sized anthemic hooks are.

Frontman Josh Ramsay is a songwriter at heart and knows exactly how to hit that catchy pop-rock sweet spot – he wrote “Pop 101” after all, essentially a satire on pop tropes turned into the perfect pop song even as he pokes fun at the form.

The band’s latest album Phantoms is thematically dense and heavily inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, as segments of new material were introduced with eerie poems and horror-movie visuals. The most overt of lyrical references came as Ramsay sang of a “tell-tale heart” on the track “Echoes of You.”

For all the spooky dramatics of the new material, it honestly seemed like the band was having a lot more fun returning to the past, Ramsay running around the stage and interacting with the crowd.

“Stutter” was the first of a long line of hits, those formative tracks that were overplayed on the radio when most of the crowd were in their early teens.

For such an ancient building, the larger, open stage space of the Orpheum always accommodates an incredible light show. Bars of light dropped down from the ceiling, the colours adapting tonally to the mood as the band blazed through “Haven’t Had Enough” and “Rhythm of Your Heart.”

“I don’t know if you guys know, but we released a new album about a month ago,” Ramsay said, met with an enormous cheer. They knew.

“It’s kind of like that Christmas Eve feeling – kind of nervous, kind of excited, like ‘what will people say’?”, he said, thanking the crowd for making it their biggest debut ever.

Playing a couple songs from the decade-old Masterpiece Theatre, Ramsay marveled at the crowd response as they screamed “All to Myself”. “To be honest, I’ve never liked any band that long!” he laughed.

The hits kept coming at the end of the show, including an engaging mashup of “Cross My Heart” and “Celebrity Status” and emotional main set closer “Fallout,” but the most magical moment of the show easily came during “Desperate Measures.”

Another perfectly structured pop song, the ‘whoa-oh’ chant from the crowd was shockingly loud before the band dropped into a beautifully harmonized a cappella section, each member prompting the crowd to join in with synchronized overhead claps.

Returning for the encore, Ramsay thanked just about every crew member individually before playing “One Love” alone.

The show finished with Phantoms closing track “The Killing Kind,” a seven-minute rock opera with multiple disparate sections. Billowing fog effects cascaded over the stage as the band showcased all of their strengths one last time.

While most of the crowd might have been there for the older hits, the band has succeeded at adapting to a more modern sound and proved why they’re only getting bigger.