Many fans of indie rock know who The Weakerthans are and what exactly they do. For years now the Canadian four (and sometimes up to six) some have been creating amazing albums that are heavy on the indie but also incorporate folk and twang into their material. They are a band that I label as an “accident band”. What I mean by that is I became a fan of them by accident.
Back in the days of slinging coffees at the café at the Borders Books & Music I worked at I came across a Weakerthans’ album at a listening station one day while on break. This was at a time and age when the internet was still ruled by AOL and MySpace was just an idea waiting to be hatched out. I remember clearly putting the headphones on at the listening station and checking out a couple tracks from Left and Leaving. Liking what I heard, I recall reading a bio about the band while listening to more tracks and taking a double look at the card when it mentioned one time Propagandhi member John Samson. Seriously, my mouth dropped open.
I was maybe 23 at the time and was slowly opening my musical tastes more. Being a punk rocker at heart I was in awe that the bassist of one of my favorite punk rock bands was fronting such a melodic and low-key band. I heard enough, grabbed the CD, and took it to the register for purchase. Needless to say my musical appreciation was given a boost thanks to the Weakerthans and to this day I am still an avid fan though I have yet to see them live.
Having missed them the couple times they did roll though Cleveland one could say I was excited to see that they had released a live DVD/CD titled Live At The Burton Cummings Theatre on Epitaph Records/ANTI- Records. Performed in their hometown of Winnipeg, Canada in April of 2009, the band recorded the performance at the Burton Cumming’s Theatre (yes, the sweet mustached Burton Cummings of The Guess Who). Just to clarify I believe the theatre was named after the classic rock musician and that he has nothing to do with it.
The DVD/CD captures the perfect evening of a show with the talented indie rockers as well as their dedicated fans who filled the venue up the night it was recorded. With no fancy light shows or theatrics the band hit the stage and played a very fun and great sounding show. Their sound, I should add, almost sounds studio and one could be fooled until the fans started hooting and hollering after every song.
Playing songs old and new the band just sounded amazing and looked ever so comfortable on the stage. Hearing them open with “Everything Must Go” really reminded me why I have been a fan for so long but seeing how happy they were performing the song brought a whole new appreciation from me for them. With the crowd cheering and the band just having fun it was apparent that this show was going to be a good one. Speeding things up they broke into “Tournament Of Hearts” immediately after. With five members on stage it appeared as if Samson’s wife Christine Fellows was hiding in the shadows offering vocals as well.
The band’s (and the crowd’s) friend Julie played on some songs as well including “Night Windows” where she offered some violin. Keeping the show rolling the band broke into “Reconstruction Site” a twangy delight of a song to listen to as well. The band completely rocked out during “Aside” all while Samson smiled big while singing. “Bigfoot” was another track I really got a kick out of with all the instrument playing.
Hearing perhaps my favorite Weakerthans song of all time, “Plea From A Cat Named Virtue”, put the biggest smile on my face even if I was watching a recording of the show. The song revolving around a wise feline carried on perfectly, even the trumpet playing at the close of the song. Samson also offered a simple impromptu guitar solo that was cut short on the CD but the DVD shows the humorous moment.
During “Wellington’s Wednesdays” Samson pulled up a fan on stage named Ernesto who had the pleasure of filling in a guitar solo in the key of E. I must say after a nervous start Ernesto started jamming hard with the rest of the band as Samson took the honorary member’s place in the crowd for a short moment. The band then followed up “The Reasons” as well as “Sun In An Empty Room”. I swear if it were not for the fans cheering at times my mind tried to argue with me that I was not listening to a live album.
Overall the show was a fun time full of a great set by an outstanding band. The DVD featured shots of the band throughout the 75 plus minute performance with good angles as well as occasionally would focus in on a true fan singing along. Capturing The Weakerthans in their hometown was one hell of an idea and even if I have not seen them live in the flesh, I am glad I had the opportunity to have this performance in my possession.
The DVD/CD ranks high with my all time favorite live albums and I have listened to it multiple times now and I am not just saying that. Great music by a bunch guys made even more entertaining by the simple fact that they were having a blast while doing their job. If you are a fan of indie rock or just want to spend the evening with some great music do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Live At The Burton Cummings Theatre.
Track Listing (DVD/CD):
01. Everything Must Go
02. Tournament of Hearts
03. Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris in 1969)
04. Night Windows
05. Reconstruction Site
07. Civil Twilight
09. Plea From A Cat Named Virtute
10. The Reasons
11. Sun In An Empty Room
12. Left and Leaving
13. Wellington’s Wednesdays
16. One Great City!
17. This Is A Fire Door Never Leave Open
18. Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure