Grey Eagle Resort & Casino, Calgary – November 28, 2014
A keyboard sequence swishing through the PA from side to side and enough smoke to suggest a raging fire backstage signaled the opening of the show as each member of Moist moved separately to the stage. The sequence surrendered to grinding guitar chords as “Mechanical” churned into life. The song, from their recent release “glory under dangerous skies,” suggests a world static and stale, and questions the purpose of life. Once would expect the band to juxtapose the observations with a charged performance, but they appeared reluctant, unsure of themselves on the large stage; lacking the emotion the album version expresses. But for what the band was missing, the audience was quick to compensate and support their heroes as Moist found their heat.
Perhaps it was the -30 degree temperature outside, mixed with the raging snowstorm that held the band semi-rigid during their entrance, but by their third song “Silver,” they were finding their stride and warming to the audience and the enthusiastic singing. The song brought a number of dancers to their feet on the periphery of the seating area where space was ample and movement unimpeded by anything except other dancers.
Lead singer and guiding light, David Usher focused his energies on his own experience as he often closed his eyes and expressed the feelings of the lyrics through facial gestures, much like a method actor running the gamut of emotions elicited by a text. His presence shifted and morphed, one moment connected then slightly aloof, adding a sense of ambiguity to his performance where one wasn’t sure if he was performing for an audience or just himself. Side-stepping along the stage with lead guitarist Mark Makoway, whose own persona shifted from the external to the internal, mostly when he dug down hard into his guitar for a solo and became lost in reverie. While these two played through their own emotions, the rest of the band, guitarist Jonathan Gallivan, keyboardist Kevin Young, bassist Louis Lalancette, and drummer Francis Fillion, were content to hold the foundational structure intact, giving space to Usher’s and Makoway’s journeys of sonic texturing and creating a sound full and thick.
On the opening of “Break Her Down” Lalancette laid down a funky line while Young’s synth filled the mid-range as they stepped into the spotlight for a few moments before quietly stepping back into the shadows as the rest of the band broke into the song.
Moist have a large sound and create layers of texture and resonance on their albums with strong melodic lines that hook you instantly though some of the nuanced shapes were lost in the show. The keys often disappeared under the weight of the guitars and the low-end lacked the punch to fully deliver the necessary dynamic range. This may be a small criticism since the audience was much in tune with the personality of the band and the spirit of the moment; they sang along on every song, reciprocating every look and sound from the stage with hundreds of smiles and cheers.
In appreciation, Usher stepped off the low stage to mix with the fans as he sang “Gasoline,” but not as a rock hero, as a friend and confidant; eye to eye, hand to hand, and smile to smile. From “Ophelia” to “Black Roses” with an appropriate drum solo, to “Tangerine” and “Resurrection,” the band wove melodic and rhythmic layers together, returning to the moment of pleasure, thanking the audience at every turn, leading Usher to state near the end of the show, “Thanks for coming out…after all these years.”
Many of Moist’s songs use the approach of soft and almost ambient beginnings moving into harder edged melodic territories as the energy of the songs build. So like their material, their concert had a slow, wistful start, but grew in energy and intensity as the show progressed. By the end of the night they were heated and sharp. Like a steam engine that starts slowly and gains speed as the water boils and the pistons push, they had attained a perfect energy. It may have been the cold, or a more calculated approach to their performance, but in any event, the band had warmed to their own heat and we all knew that it was good.