Frenchies? Swooooooooooooooooooooooooooon

Thursday, September 29, 2011
By Victoria King

As if there weren’t already loads of benefits to knowing French, (eg: a decent-paying government job, an upper hand in travelling abroad and a couple nifty pick-up lines to whip out once and a while) now there’s Karkwa.

I really shouldn’t say ‘now’ though. The guys in Karkwa have been playing and recording together for 14 years, with their most popular and recent album of being 2011’s Le Chemins de Verre which earned the band the Polaris Prize. And FYI, that year’s nominees included favourites like Tegan & Sara, The Sadies and Broken Social Scene. Before I’d listened to their latest album earlier that day, I really wasn’t too sure of what to expect and was only looking forward to the opener of the show, Aidan Knight. Not a big deal, but I sorta fell in love with LCDV not long after hitting play.

The first and most notable detail of the night was the age range of audience members. At their youngest, a group of girls in the center of the floor couldn’t have been more than 16, while more than one grey-haired couple was sitting at the side tables of the WECC. As soon as Aidan Knight took the stage, it was quickly revealed who each were there to see. And I can’t blame them, as Aidan is pretty swoon-worthy. But more importantly (obviously), his performance was incredible. Forgive my extreme adjective, and know I try not to toss that word around lightly when describing a show or performance. Honestly, it was one of the best acts I’ve ever seen. If you are an A.K. fan as I am and have listened to Versicolour on repeat since first purchase, this performance would have thrown you for a bit of a loop (in the best way possible). The songs were rearranged with minimal percussion and instead replaced with more acoustic string picking, trumpet and violin as compared to their recorded counterparts off the album. There were drums only on the first song, “Friendly Fires”, and nearing the end of the set. Following “Friendly Fires” was a set that included “Altar Boys,” “Lambics,” “Margaret Downe,” and “Jasper” and closed with “Knitting Something Nice for You.”

Undoubtedly, the audience thinned slightly of teeny beanies for Karkwa and was instead replaced by those older fans from the side booths. Only several of the band’s songs were recognizable to me, partially because of the language difference and partially because I’m not as well versed in Karkwa’s discography. That aside, I thought they were pretty rockin’ for a group of ‘old’ guys. More than pretty, they were actually much better than I had hoped for. Lead vocalist Louis-Jean Cormier puts on an energetic performance whilst also being a gracious and humble front man. He fills the space between each of the other band members with entertaining dancing and stage banter with band members. Between the group of them, the band gives off a totally ‘average dude’, un-pretentious vibe despite their fame and prestige. Some personal favorites of the their performance were undoubtedly “Le Bon Sens” and “Les Chemins de Verre,” although the entire set was consistently lively and energetic.  The night concluded with a three-song encore with accompaniment from Aidan Knight and his band mates on percussion and horns.

This was a show I was intending on seeing even before knowing that I’d be reviewing it. My advice to you is to buy a ticket as soon as an Aidan Knight and/or Karkwa show is announced in Winnipeg again. Moreover, buy one for a significant other, a few more for your friends and family as well as your neighbours. If you feel so inclined, hand them out to people on the street as offerings of goodwill. Karkwa and Knight put on performances that are not to be missed.

Stylus Magazine

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