photos by Amanda Hatfield words by Andrew Sacher
When The Weakerthans walked on stage at the sold out Bowery Ballroom Friday night (12/9) to play their 2003 album, Reconstruction Site, you could see the appreciation of the crowd's enthusiasm on John K. Samson's face before he even picked up his guitar. And from the first chord of album opener "(Manifest)," it was obvious that the band were going to feed off of that enthusiasm for the entire show. Things picked up even more on the very memorable "The Reasons," which left no one out of the venue-wide sing-along.
As Ted Leo has pointed out, often times when bands play their older albums in full, it can come off as a cheap attempt at nostalgia. But what The Weakerthans did at Bowery Ballroom was the exact opposite of that. They played through the 2003 album's songs with the energy of a band touring their debut. And they were in great spirits all night, cracking jokes and coming off as totally genuine. Reconstruction Site is also the most carefully orchestrated of all their records, which came across flawlessly as they interwove pedal steel, trumpets, and glimpses of folk rock into the power chord driven fun they were having throughout the show.
After a couple slower cuts, the band and crowd hit their highest peak on "Plea From a Cat Named Virtute." When the distortion-charged song led into its much softer ending, the crowd's energy was still so high that they were even louder than John Samson as they belted along, "I swear I'm going to bite you hard and taste your tinny blood." When the band got to the second of the three hospital sonnets, "(Hospital Vespers)," they appropriated the reverse guitar of the album version to crashing chords and cymbals, turning the song from one of the album's most introspective tracks into something way more anthemic. They did keep things toned down a few songs later, when the band minus John left the stage so he could play "One Great City!" on his own. Before he began the track, he thanked NYC for our Occupy Wall Street movement and said it has inspired many others around the world, himself included. He opted to play the track on his electric guitar, despite having an acoustic on stage, and if anyone wasn't singing along with him the whole time, they definitely joined in on the refrain, "I hate Winnipeg."
The band closed their set with a few songs off of their other albums which they played in full on one of the other three nights, the last of which was last night (12/10) when they played their 2007 album, Reunion Tour.
The Friday show opened with a set from fellow Canadian band Rah Rah. Their set was full of upbeat indie pop songs culminating in pretty huge choruses, which often brought to mind I'm From Barcelona (if they had like, 23 less members). The members did a lot of instrument switching and almost everyone in the band sang lead on at least one song. And just in case their catchy songs weren't enough, their stage antics are sure to be remembered, which included throwing "R" "A" & "H" ballon letters into the audience, shooting out confetti, and breaking open a piñata at the end of their last song.
Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson will be back at Bowery Ballroom as part of a tour in support of his forthcoming solo album.
We didn't take any pictures at the last two nights of the Weakerthans Bowery residency, but we did post some from the first night, and we took some on the second night when Dinosaur Bones opened. Those continue, along with a shot of the limited edition NYC poster, below...