Thursday, October 30th, 2003
Bluebird Of Happiness
Ask me who my favorite live band is, and nine times out of ten, I will say “Mojave 3“. The tenth time, I will say “Stryper“, but if Neil and Rachel could be persuaded to dress up in black and yellow jumpsuits and throw Bibles at the audience, it could be a clean sweep for them. I’m just saying. The band was kicking off their North American tour in Toronto last night, always a wise move for a British band, because goodness knows we adore anyone with an accent over here.
I thought I was getting there late, but opener Justin Rutledge was still onstage. I should say, Justin and his entourage – by far the largest lineup I’d ever seen for any opening act, let alone a local one. He was up there with an eight piece band of almost all hired guns – you could tell from the music charts most had in front of them and the fact that they were all watching him for the changes. Musically, they were very solid – for what they were probably getting paid, I would hope so – but after the initial positive impressions of his widescreen folk-country repetoire, the gliding started coming off the lily. The thing about having a band of all jobbers is that they don’t really have anything invested in the music, and it showed. Everything was played very nicely and professionally, but without a whole lot of spark or soul and there were more than a few cheeseball G.E. Smith-esque guitar faces from the players as well. Tuning into the rather banal lyrics didn’t help much either. The boy’s got some promise but should work on the substance a little more before investing in the veneer.
Mojave 3 ambled onstage at 11:15 to the delight of the mostly full house. Opening with “Starlite #1” from Spoon And Rafter, they played an hour and a half of material drawn from the last three albums. It’s hard to describe exactly why Mojave 3 live are so amazing live – you couldn’t tell from the records, really, which are gentle and beautiful but maybe not what you’d expect to amaze onstage, nor does the band jump around and whip their hair around. It’s the sound – it’s simply massive. They’re not loud, but the combination of all the instruments in the mix – guitar, keys, steel and of course Neil and Rachel’s voices – just build this incredible wall of music. You have to experience it, really.
And speaking of the mix, whoever does live sound for the band should be involved in making the records, if for no other reason than they’re not afraid to turn Rachel’s vocals UP. The most common complaint about the records is that her backing vocals are mixed so low as to almost not even be there. Live, her voice adds so much – her singing “Lay your love on me” over the coda of “Sarah”, which led off the encore, gave me goosebumps. Hopefully her solo record due out next February will satisfy.
It was a bit of a surprise to see local pedal steel-er Bob Egan filling in for Raymond Richards, though he’s becoming so ubiquitous at shows in Toronto that I should be more surprised if he doesn’t get onstage with every band that plays here. As always, he did a fine job filling in, sounding like he’d been playing with them for a lifetime.
I’m quite happy with how the photos turned out. I was afraid before the show that they’d be playing in dim lighting and I’d either end up with unusable photos or be reviled as that mook up front with the flash going off all the time. Thankfully, the stage lights were actually brigher and less red than usual, and I didn’t have to use the flash. Much.
My only gripe was the dearth of merchandise available. I was all ready to drop however much a t-shirt would cost, but all they had was CDs. Hey – I’ve already got them all! I am hoping that they’ll have some more swag when they return for a full tour next winter.
np – Mojave 3 / Spoon And Rafter