The Complete Experience: The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger at the Imperial

GOASTT_press_1Take note: Canterbury, England’s Syd Arthur is not one dude but four – four who rock like pros. Concert-goers at the Imperial this past Friday learned as much during the band’s Canadian debut opening for Brooklyn’s the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Syd Arthur set the musical tone for the night with melody-driven rock that loosened up with psychedelic open-mindedness or clenched tightly like the best classic rock. Whether cool and laid back or unapologetically stiff, Syd Arthur’s confidence never wavered.

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, the latest project between Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Sean Ono-Lennon, returned to Vancouver bearing their third album, Midnight Sun. Released via the pair’s own Chimera Music imprint at the end of this past April, Midnight Sun is an immersive, colour-filled experience. It’s so complete, rich, and sure of itself, it’s no wonder why Sean has stated that Midnight Sun feels like the GOASTT’s first proper album.

Although founded as a duo, the GOASTT materialized at the Imperial as a six-piece. That’s how much extra muscle was required to bring the thick, heady psychedelia of Midnight Sun to life. Their effort was not perfect, however. Although, the unequal balancing of the monitors was to blame. Even though Sean was soft spoken, I should have been able to hear him sing. In contrast, it was almost startling how loudly Charlotte’s vocals came in. Even her calm voice seemed to barge in, at that volume.

Loudest of all was the lead guitarist, who dominated everything. At least the moustached virtuoso’s incredible skills were the clearest thing that could be heard. With a stacked pedal board, there were times when it seemed as though he was flipping off one switch and flipping on another with every note.

Given the elaborate nature of the GOASTT’s videos for “Animals” and the nine-minute “Moth To a Flame” (a micro-film, really), and especially considering Sean’s pedigree, I expected far more of a stage show. But their lone lava lamp projector’s splotchy, tri-coloured visuals did not blend together when overlaid, doing little did to conjure the surreal character and “bold, shape-shifting sonic murals” of Midnight Sun. But these details were minor; the music more than spoke for itself.

Refreshingly, the GOASTT openly acknowledged that they had an encore prepared, bucking the hokey convention of leaving the stage and then returning a minute later regardless of how hard the crowd clamours for more. The GOASTT played a couple of more songs, including a cover of Syd Barrett’s “Long Gone”, to close the show.

“Even though people don’t listen to albums anymore, we’re still fans of complete albums. We wanted [Midnight Sun] to be really satisfying from beginning to end,” Sean Ono-Lennon told Rolling Stone this past March. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger have accomplished that goal, and their live show is likewise enjoyable all the way through. Sean noted the increasingly large crowd every time they visit Vancouver. If the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger keep up their live reputation with shows like their performance at the Imperial, no doubt the crowds will only keep growing.

Sean invited fans to say hi as he and Charlotte worked the merchandise table after the show. Now that’s a complete experience.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu