Photographs by Maya Setton.
The first time I ever heard David Usher, I was in ninth grade listening to David Marsden’s seven to midnight show on 94.9 The Rock. David and I used to email back and forth a little bit back then; I liked to pick his brain about music, and he seemed more than happy to humour my curiosities. He played such an eclectic mixture of music every weekend, and I always looked forward to it and pulled influences out of it. Well, one weekend, he played ‘Black Black Heart,’ off of David Usher’s 2001 album ‘Morning Orbit,’ and I loved it right away. I wanted to hear it over and over again, and I’m sure I requested it a few times over the next few months, too.
Cut to Saturday night at the Danforth Music Hall which, if you haven’t been, is an amazing venue. The floor is sloped, and it makes a huge difference; I didn’t have to feel like a self-conscious flesh pillar with all kinds of short people’s eyes on the back of my head all night, so that’s nice. The venue was packed, too, and the excitement was tangible. So, when Moist did emerge on stage, the roar of the crowd rattled the can of beer in my hand like it was going to explode.
I have to say, I was definitely swept up in the excitement. I think most of that was due to the fact that I was so used to hearing Moist a certain way, from their albums, just like everyone else. But live, they’re a whole different animal. They’re heavy. I’m a big advocate of bands doing live albums because I think some bands are so over-produced – or the production just isn’t as representative of the true sound of the band as it should be – and live they offer so much more. Moist is one of those bands. Mark Makoway and Jonathan Gallivan on guitars built up a wall of sound, and drummer Francis Fillion punched at it like he was throwing thunder. He even got his own solo, which I thought was so cool. Bassist Louis Lalancette and keyboardist Kevin Young were just as impressive though, and added layer upon layer of heavy sound to the songs that that Saturday night audience chanted along to with fervent aplomb.
And David Usher himself, the hometown hero, the prodigal son, the old favourite. He was commanding. His vocals were on point, he played to the audience, and he embraced the passionate crowd and made a show as punchy as Moist’s seem intimate. Even his marionette-inspired dance moves came off just right. He nailed it. And when he sang ‘Black Black Heart,’ it took me right back to ninth grade and David Marsden. I could have watched him, and them, all night.
Fan favourites ‘Silver,’ ‘Tangerine,’ and ‘Push’ accented the set, but Moist mixed it up. I mentioned the drum solo, but even more impressive and intimate was the acoustic break in the middle of the set, when Usher, Makoway and Lalacette took seats at the front of the stage and turned it into a show from their living room. It totally worked; a change of pace can sometimes derail a show, but this one only highlighted the musicianship and the strength of the songs themselves.
I’m glad Moist are back, and I’d definitely see them again. And again. And even one more time after that.