Published Mar 06, 2020Hitting up Victoria at the tail end of a mini Canadian tour in support of her third solo album, Vancouver's Frazey Ford brought a ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day. Her new album, U kin B the Sun, is her first for Arts & Crafts, and first since 2014's Indian Ocean; it's an album of resistance and affirmations, an oasis of hope in our cultural desert.
Playing in support of her own third album, 2019's Benevolence, Alexandria Maillot did her best to engage the crowd as the opener, but they failed to give her the attention she rightfully deserved. Granted, she and her three-piece band didn't have the most electric stage presence, all spread out and mostly in their own heads, but their dynamic skill was on display, nailing changes and atmospheres, while Maillot's self-conscious banter was on point.
Originally from Courtenay, Maillot lived in Victoria for a while, made the obligatory career move to Vancouver, and was then subsequently burned out and gentrified back to Courtenay. While she was off doing her thing, her little hometown had changed. Apparently, it's all trendy distilleries now. Since she's a singer-songwriter, she wrote a bunch of songs about it.
Presumably in that vein, waltz ballad "I Never Liked Your Friends" took on an even more haunting feel live, showcasing the magnificent power of Maillot's beautiful voice with its elegant vibrato, while "The Judge" closed the set on their most rocking track, starting off in liquid ambience before kicking in double-time. Written on a smelly SkyTrain about falling in love on public transit, the so-called fable "Smitten" sounded like a less depressed Angel Olsen if she had a little more Patsy Cline twang. Not much could penetrate the boorish, inattentive crowd, though.
Frazey Ford fared a smidge better with the audience, given that they had filled the Capital Ballroom to capacity on a Thursday ostensibly to see her, but not by much. Before playing "Three Golden Trees," she noted that it was "a quiet one, so be quiet." It was a nice try, but the background commotion continued unabated.
Drunken blabbermouths aside, Ford's set was solid. Playing with bassist Darren Parris, drummer Leon Power, guitarist Craig McCaul and backup singer Caroline Ballhorn, Ford was an original member of the Be Good Tanyas, but her solo career has skewed more to a Southern-flavoured indie pop than the rootsy alt-country for which her old band were known. They played most of U kin B the Sun with studio perfection, while Ballhorn gave the vocals a little more oomph, wonderfully complementing Ford's steadfast vibrato with a straight, sweet voice.
Ford upped the visual ante too, if only because of her amazing Technicolor onesie. It was something else, a bold graphic print head-to-toe with brightly coloured scissors, bunnies, eyeballs, clouds, rainbows and other whimsical flotsam. A few minutes into her set, someone yelled out, "I love your outfit." In response, Ford said, "I love it too. That's why I wore it for you guys."
She did get serious on us a few times, though. Before playing "Money Can't Buy," Ford dedicated the concert to the pipeline protesters who disrupted the BC legislature, noting that civil disobedience is what makes democracy work. She also gave props to the Wet'suwet'en before "The Kids Are Having None of It," subsequently working the phrase "John Horgan, you fucking hypocrite" into the lyrics.
An up-tempo, soulful song of survival, "Azad" provided one of the most significant spikes in energy, but generally, the set had a fairly laidback vibe. This casualness was underscored by humorous moments like when she said "Done" was for sequins and other shiny things, and claimed "Golden" was a form of pagan disco, while the polished consistency of her band's performance was comforting. Ford had fun, and invited us along with her. It was shameful that so much of the crowd missed the boarding call.