Born Ruffians + Aron D’Alesio @ Casa Del Popolo – 1st March 2018

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Born Ruffians Montreal

How great are Born Ruffians, seriously?! I said back in October of last year when they opened for New Pornographers that they were one of the most underrated bands around, and that was BEFORE I heard the new record, their 5th full-length Uncle, Duke & The Chief, released just last month. Have you heard it yet? Honestly, it’s fantastic, as good as anything they’ve ever done, and on some seriously heavy rotation in my house. Whilst never headlining the big stages this city, they’ve certainly drawn sizeable crowds at Sala Rossa on the previous occasions I’ve seen them, so tonight’s show, across the street in the tiny confines of Casa Del Popolo, is an absolute can’t-miss. Unsurprisingly, the show is totally sold out way in advance.

The room is already pretty jam-packed by the time opener Aron D’Alesio takes to the stage, with his guitar and drum machine. It’s a relaxed start to the show; at its most upbeat, it’s reminiscent of 1950s rock and roll; at it’s most downbeat, it’s like the slower moments of The Walkmen (especially so in conjunction with Aron’s Hamilton Leithauser-esque vocals!). For his last song, he replaces his guitar for a pint, and sings over his drum machine, before downing his drink, saying his thanks, and leaving the stage after 40 minutes. A solid start, albeit a mellow one, though in conjunction with the dim red lighting throughout the set and the ever-warming venue, I’m starting to feel a little sleepy…

You can always trust Born Ruffians to wake up a room, though. As they wind through the crowd to reach the stage (gotta love these tiny venues!) to the soundtrack of Imagine by John Lennon mashed up with Jump by Van Halen, a giant lamp in the middle of the stage lights up, and after a brief setup, frontman Luke Lalonde and Co. dive right into the stop-start Ring That Bell and Tricky from the new album, which is played in its entirety across the set tonight.

Mitch DeRosier’s unmistakable bass intro of Ocean’s Deep from 2013’s Birthmarks record kicks off the first major singalong of the set, with the crowd packed inside Casa Del Popolo belting out the lyrics with such volume you feel like you’re actually in Metropolis. Drummer Steve Hamelin mentions how this is their first headline show in a while (tonight is the first night of a mammoth stint across North America); “it’s nice to play to people who wanna hear us!” Absolutely we do!

Another oldie follows in the form of Red, Yellow & Blue, from the 2008 record of the same name, and is swiftly followed by Hedonistic Me from that same record. Both succeed in sparking huge singalongs. Needle gets the loudest response yet, and sounds even more anthemic live than on record before the room explodes into dance for We Made It, arguably the highlight of the 2015 Ruff album.

The rest of the main set draws mainly from the new record, with The Ballad Of Moose Bruce and Nova-Leigh from 2010’s Say It record being the only exceptions. For me, Miss You and furious set closer Fade To Black are the highlights, instantly loveable songs, as is the way with so much of Born Ruffians back catalogue, and surely (hopefully!) to be mainstays in their set for years to come. After a brief pause, the encore arrives in the form of the classic Little Garçon and new album closer Working Together (coincidentally, “working together” with opener Aron D’Alesio on keys, ba-dum tish!), before the show wraps up for good after 75 wonderful minutes.

The collar that surrounds the vinyl edition of the new record describes how it is “a record less concerned with what sounds hip than what feels good.” Absolutely on point with that one; catchy garage rock may not be the most popular genre anymore, but wow, when you do it right, the way Born Ruffians do it, does it ever feel good…

Set List
Ring That Bell
Tricky
Ocean’s Deep
Don’t Live Up
& On & On & On
Red, Yellow & Blue
Hedonistic Me
Needle
We Made It
Love Too Soon
Forget Me
Miss You
The Ballad Of Moose Bruce
Side Tracked
Spread So Thin
Nova-Leigh
Fade To Black

Encore
Little Garçon
Working Together

Review – Simon Williams

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