Our Lady Peace at Club Infinity (2012)

OLP

As someone who has been enamored with Canadian alt rock icons Our Lady Peace since 1997 and even interviewed lead singer Raine Maida in 2011, Friday night’s sold-out stunner at Club Infinity marked the first time I had actually experienced the band in a live setting.

Sure, they’ve become a mainstay at various outdoor concert settings around Western New York as of late, but extenuating circumstances always prevented me from catching a show. Given the land of swarming confusion that defines those venues, I can safely assume that the club route is the better way to go.

A few seconds of Maida’s lush acoustic intro to “Superman’s Dead” was all I needed to convince me of that.

It’s often said that bands take on another life when thrust upon the stage, and OLP’s swirling soundscapes create an effect on par with that assessment. Casual observers may recognize Maida’s inimitable nasal falsetto as being the driving force, but witnessing the group swing up close only expands its majesty.

Touring in support of “Curve,” arguably the group’s most ambitious offering since 2000’s “Spiritual Machines,” Maida, lead guitarist Steve Mazur (suspenders and all), bassist Duncan Coutts, and drummer Jeremy Taggert treated their devotees to an evening of classics interspersed with inspiring selections from the latest LP.

Mazur’s animated guitar élan is unlike other players of the day, because he’s so unassuming in his off-stage persona. In an era dominated by inflated egos, it’s refreshing to see a guitarist who allows his chops to be the story as opposed to whatever booze-fueled tomfoolery he may have engaged in the night before.

The music is what matters and these guys allow that principle be their guide. Coutts and Taggert form a formidable rhythm section that goes off on songs such as “One Man Army” and “Fire in the Henhouse,” while slipping into an unwavering groove during set staples “Clumsy” and “Is Anybody Home?”

I’ve heard “Clumsy” countless times on the radio and in various live recording formats, but the version belted out on the Club Infinity stage stands out as the finest of them all.

Like all shows, the hits wake people up, but it’s the unexpected gems that bring them to their knees in rapture.

The exquisite acoustic delivery of “Julia” and “Thief” fit that bill on Friday, as the gathered had no choice but to look on with wonder as Maida’s voice soared seamlessly into the night, liberated by the naked truth synonymous with the unplugged milieu.

Even I got a little teary-eyed as the moment came to a close.

Following up such a perfect one-two combination would be difficult for a lesser band, but OLP has so many tunes in their back pocket that the momentum just kept building.  The current single “Heavyweight” is made for the stage, and the encore’s inclusion of “4 a.m.” and “Starseed” brought the house down nearly as much as the aforementioned acoustic breakdown.

Setting the table for OLP’s triumph was a ferocious little two-piece from Vancouver called The Pack A.D., whose tightly wound marriage of The White Stripes and Stooges-esque garage punk had me onboard from the onset.

Consisting of singer/guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller, the group jells, thrives off minimalism, and creates an earsplitting wall of sound in the process. Black attacks the fretboard with gusto and Miller’s droll stage banter complements her unruly drumming quite nicely.

The only thing missing was Black pulling a Pete Townshend by smashing her guitar to bits for a finale, but perhaps that will be added to the set at a later date.

Either way, the band certainly has a bright future, and as long as bands like OLP are around to show them how it’s done, the sky’s the limit in terms of crossover success.

 

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