Richard Reed Parry @ SAT – 28th June 2019

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On paper, it sounded so good.  Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, RRP to his friends (possibly…), playing a late night set in addition to his regular sets, so I can catch 2 shows in one night!  After a marvellous Madeleine Peyroux show at Theatre Maisonneuve, I head over to S.A.T. and collect my ticket at the door. 

Ambient Improvisations in a stunning 360” reads the ticket.  I like the sound of the “stunning 360 part,” but alarm bells start ringing at “ambient improvisations.”  Guess I didn’t read the memo properly – this isn’t a regular set.

Still, I decide to give it a shot.  I head up to the “Satosphere,” on the third floor of S.A.T., and enter what can only be described as a Planetarium, a huge dome with a projection of melting ice dripping onto the floor.  Reclined cushion chairs adorn the floor, allowing attendees to stare up at projections.  This could actually be pretty cool!

7 musicians enter the stage area at one side of the dome, including the main man RRP himself, who seats himself at the cello, and the band starts playing.  Vocals are provided from all parts of the stage, though are largely unintelligible.  And the band plays.  The projections seem focused on water and ice, to begin with.

Being improv, there’s no way of knowing when one song ends, and another begins, but it’s a fairly constant drone.  Anyway, I can only really track the show by the time. 

At about 25 minutes, the projections are still hydrophilic (water-loving, for any non-Chemists here), and a few people have dozed off.  I mean, it’s dark, the music is “ambient” and “improvised”, so you can’t really blame them.  One guy to the right of me was out for the count about 10 minutes in, poor guy.  Still, when you gotta sleep, you gotta sleep.

At 40 minutes, the intensity picks up (not enough to wake the guy next to me, mind…), with drums starting to take over and feedback beginning to kick in, before slowing to a cello noodle.  A few more people have fallen asleep.

At 50 minutes, 1 girl takes it upon herself to add some interpretive dance at the front, right in front of the band.  Arms wave, knees bend, she goes from left to right of the stage…but not too many people flinch.  She soon sits back down; no allies for her I guess.  Always a bit awkward when you are the only one on the dancefloor…we’ve all been there.  The projections are still watery.  The guy beside me is still asleep.

At 80 minutes, I wake up, realizing I fell asleep too!  At this point, it’s 12:30 am.  The music still sounds the same though; doesn’t seem like I missed much.  The projections have finally moved on to something different – now we have trees and leaves!  Speaking of leaves, the couple to my left calls it a night and head out, and I’m starting to lean in that direction too. 

At 90 minutes, there’s no sign of the show ending anytime soon, so I decide to call it a night too, careful not to wake the guy to my right who is still out.  I ask the guy at the door how long the show will be going on for, and he informs me that it could go until 2am.  That seals the deal for me, and I’m out. 

It was a great setting and a great concept for a show, but alas, it’s the “ambient improv” that I just don’t connect or engage with.  Oh well, lessons learned.  I’ll be sure to read the Memo next time.

Review – Simon Williams

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