Whenever someone uses the word 'nice' to describe you, it's always a bit of a kick where it counts. Like you, I'd much rather hear that I rock. Honestly, isn't nice is really just another word for boring? Much like the ugly sister with a 'great personality', the concert goers that showed up for last night's Pinback show at Lee's Palace were, well, very reserved. Lead Guitarist and Vocalist Rob Crow confirmed this as truth when he ended the show with "Thanks Toronto. You've been nice".
Other than the above stigma that Rob confirmed, the show was just about a total success. With most shows where the band sets up the gear themselves, there was a few bumps. On the technical side, I was very disappointed with the vocal levels on Rob's mic at the start of the show. It's a shame when a group with huge voice talent deprives the audience of what they came to hear. It became highly annoying when the perfectly tuned instrument levels drowned out the lyrics. Fortunately, this setback lasted only a few songs into the evening. It was almost as if a shy Rob was holding back until he had time to court the mob on the floor.
It's not all about Rob though. The only other member of the group, Armistead Burwell Smith IV, was flawless. His vocals were electric, and maybe I was just standing too close, but I could feel each chord of his bass running through my veins.
As always with Lee's Palace, the lighting left something to be desired. A constant beam of red really didn't reflect the music, and may have more accurately portrayed the audience.
Rob Crow became more adventurous on the guitar as the night wore on, occasionally breaking into a rare solo as the band took a backseat to his dazzling display of string dancing.
The rest of the band consisted of a rotating cast of fill-ins, whom I know nothing about, nor do I have any urge whatsoever to take interest in whom they might be. Their performance seemed uninspired, which doesn't much matter as the majority of the work is done by Crow and Smith - the only reason Torontonians paid money to be inside. It may be that the rest of the band has a hard time getting up for a gig when they play someone else's music on a nightly basis. It's only a small step up from cover band hell. Pinback is a fantastic pair, but when you play live, you can't do everything yourself.
Crow and Smith seemed to be having a good time on stage, occasionally rocking out, but with the audience mostly in a trance from the magical Pinback spell, it certainly had to be draining under the hue of red lights. The audience was so mellow (save a few patrons who really enjoyed the less-than-cheap alcohol), that they prompted calls from fans to get the party started.
From the back, "Comon' Toronto! Get moving! Pinback you rock!".
This didn't really spark any action, although it turned a few heads and warranted a smile from the band. Mostly everyone went back to the general melodic head bobbing that comes as a result from the infectious sound Pinback produces.
Don't confuse the lack of audience enthusiasm with the notion this was a bad rock show. Pinback played very well, and watching them live really makes you take notice of the workmanship in their songs. Just about everyone stayed right until the end of the encore. Pinback showed up and gave their best, it's just too bad the fans didn't. Let's chalk it up as the audience being completely mesmerized by a great rock band.
Writer: Mark Baese