"I didn't know what rock and roll WAS until I heard the Constantines"
- Chad Van Gaalen
Warning: extreme gushing ahead
How can I do a review of the Constantines' concert on Saturday night without resorting to delirium? The fact of the matter is, I can't, so if gushing disturbs you, please stop reading now.
The Constantines must love to play to a live audience.
That's the only explanation I can think of as to why they tour endlessly. It's certainly not the money. They charge the most ridiculously low ticket prices I've ever encountered. But it's obvious from the energy and the passion and the joy that they put into their performances, that this is what they exist to do. Perhaps they are just trying to save money on gym membership fees, because, believe me, these boys don't need any more of a workout than what they are getting every night on stage, but I suspect there is far more to it than that.
Saturday's show was everything I had hoped for and more. I knew there would be aggressive drum-heavy driving beats, I knew there would be political and intelligent anthems, I knew there would be sweat and spit from five guys playing with all their strength and all their souls. And there was also compassion and community and love.
The openers, Blood Meridian, who have ties to Black Mountains/Pink Mountaintops, had moments before arrived off a plane from the UK where they had been touring for 5 weeks (and frankly they looked it). Borrowing the Constantines' instruments, and oblivious to their disturbing physical resemblance to the Manson family, they launched their set of hippy-druggy-alt country-rock. Their presence made for the addition of trucker-hippy wear among the usual patented scenester indie-kid outfits in the audience.
When local boy, Chad Van Gaalen, took over, it was to an obvious home-coming, complete with one really enthusiastic fan-boy. Eva spent the night with her elbows right up on stage, so she was privy to this exchange during equipment setup. Apparently the fan-boy, who was right behind her, had brought his mom into the mosh pit to meet Chad Van Gaalen:
"Chad, Chad, this is my mom! Mom, this is Chad Van Gaalen! Chad, I brought you some sunglasses! I love you, man; I chose my high school because you went there!"
I'm a little miffed that Eva didn't invite me into the mosh pit to introduce me to Bryan Webb. Except that I would be the one saying "Bry, Bry, this is my daughter! I love you, man; I brought you some cookies!"
Bry actually played bass during Van Gaalen's set and had been doing so for the last four shows. See that's what this band is all about: community, comradery, dedication. And how great is Bryan Webb, the frontman? His staggeringly powerful voice is legendary, his lyrics are intelligent and political and meaningful. It's been said of Bryan Webb that he is 'the only white dude who could pull off lyrics like "Can I get a witness?" and "sister, don't reduce yourself" with any kind of authority'. His vocals cover the range from punk howler to impassioned activist to gentle lover. He also has the dubious honour of being voted Sexiest Musician by a poll conducted on this site a few months ago.
The Constantines opened their set with Draw Us Lines, a song dedicated to the writer and activist Starhawk. It's a song with an unusual musical structure of an extended line of feedback, overlayed with driving drums and a single bass line. It was a really powerful and effective opening to the set, the feedback reverberating on the darkened stage, as we waited for our heroes to take the stage and deliver what was the most aggressive, driving, impassioned attack of music I have ever witnessed. I came out of there with sore hands, a raw throat, ringing ears, and aching feet; I can't imagine how the boys feel after night upon night of this kind of raw energy.
Oh, I also came away with this t-shirt. You can't tell from this photo, but the vines among the leaves spell "Constantines". And I really really wish that I was a mechanic, as the band was having van troubles on route from Saskatoon to Calgary and sent out a plea for anyone who knew a mechanic who was willing to work on the Sunday morning of a long weekend. I still feel badly that I couldn't help. I should have taken up a collection or something.
If you are at all curious about the Constantines, please, I implore you, spend that 18 bucks and go see them when they are in your town, because, I can assure you, they will be there soon.
I have not done the show or this band any justice with this review, as words fail me when I think about how fantastic they are and I am reduced to babbling. I know that it is a cliche to say you really have to see them perform live to truly appreciate them, but in the case of the Constantines, it is the gospel truth. You owe it to yourself to experience this band and to feel the love.
"[The Constantines] work the great miracle of rock 'n' roll: Kill it, then bring it back to life. This is important."
- Magnet Magazine
previous Constantines posts: