According to its description on last.fm, Canadian alt-rock outfit Big Wreck is “a neo-progressive hard rock band of the late 1990s.”
While many artists are quick to distance themselves from the “progressive” paradigm in 2013, Ian Thornley and Co. have not only embraced it, but also devised a way to channel their musical exploration into a sonically sophisticated vibe capable of producing chart-accessible singles.
Grab a taste of the first few tracks from 2012’s “Albatross,” and the picture instantly becomes clear as to how a band can achieve such a thing within today’s stagnant landscape. The songs challenge, astound, and inspire in equal measure, while defiantly coming together to encompass an album that refuses to imitate every other product on the market.
The “Albatross” tour stopped by Buffalo’s Town Ballroom last Friday night to bring western New York out of the doldrums of winter in a way that couldn’t have had better timing.
Founding members Ian Thornley and Brian Doherty brought newcomers Paulo Neta, Dave McMillan, and Chuck Keeping into the fold for a sweltering 90-minute jaunt through material that should be required listening for anyone calling themselves a fan of the rock ‘n’ roll persuasion.
Early selections such as “Inhale” and “A Million Days” were submitted as evidence that this version of Big Wreck is superior to the original, a sentiment which was parroted throughout the evening by fans whose ideal form of merriment was yelling the lyrics directly in the face of unsuspecting bystanders.
If there’s one thing to be said about Canadian music fans, it’s that they love their artists with a fury that is seldom duplicated, and, when expressed the right way, the concert atmosphere is stronger for it.
“Control” provided an opportunity for the band to slow things down and push the evening in a direction the audience may not have been expecting, but the musicality on display was jaw-dropping, indeed.
Thornley’s mammoth guitar repertoire paired with the rest of the group’s ability to build a contagious groove around him took the track to new heights at every turn.
Other gems included “That Song,” “Albatross,” and a to-die-for version of “Blown Wide Open” that had everyone on the floor singing as if it were the last time they’d ever set foot inside a concert hall.
The show’s final moments again found Thornley playing possessed during “Come Again” and a cover of Tears For Fears’s “Shout,” which was an exceptional diversion from the usual lot of covers.
With a masterful set from Big Wreck behind them and what promises to be a life-altering set from Steven Wilson on the horizon (Apr. 21, to be exact), western New York’s concert season is officially underway.