The Paper Kites + Wild Rivers @ Corona Theatre – 26th November 2018

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I’m going to start by saying that I am not a fan of The Paper Kites. I love live shows, and giving my opinion, and background music when I’m teaching yoga; this is why, months ago, I requested this concert for review. I know the one song we all know, and in the days leading up to the concert, I’m attempting to educate myself, switching back and forth on Spotify from The Paper Kites to the playlist I’m working on for the teenage boys I teach on Monday evenings. They’re a tough crowd, and the reason I’m a few minutes late to the show.

As I walk into the Corona Theatre, I’m warmly greeted by the security team. I helped run an event at their venue the week before, and it feels good to be back. I love it here: the sound quality is awesome, the size of the room is perfect for most bands I’d like to see, and some of the best restaurants in the city are across the street (and open late). I’m telling you how much I love this venue knowing full well that I’ll rake them over the coals in a few paragraphs, because as always, it pains me to see something done half-assed that, had it been done right, would have made a mediocre experience incredible.

At that moment, though, I was happy. I’d missed the first two songs by opening act Wild Rivers, but Already Gone was a gorgeous introduction to the band. They’re called folksy, I’ll venture country, and they are refreshingly honest. The lead singer lets us know they’ve been working on the next song, and that makes me feel like not ripping them apart for the overly long pauses in Moving Target. He also gives credit to his friend’s ex-girlfriend for penning Mayday – while his friend was crying on the phone, he was being a good friend, listening to him repeat every word she said… and then writing every word she said into a song. I look up the lyrics, and decide she’s wordy, vague, and stringing poor Kevin along.

I’m pleased with the Death Cab for Cutie references throughout Do Right, but Heart Attack is country slow, too slow. The harmonies are beautiful but I don’t want or need all this Ryan Adams realness. It’s trying a little too hard. I think that in your effort to stand out you just do the same thing someone else who is trying to stand out is doing, and catchy songs are catchy for a reason.

Howling is a song I can almost grasp the meaning of. This song is better, and you can hear their confidence singing it. No obscenely long pauses here. I start thinking about an article I read that morning, about why Carly Rae Jepsen is so beloved, and what it comes down to is feelings – being able to connect with an audience and make people feel less alone. I’m not sure Wild Rivers has done that with their lyrics, but I like their sound, and I’m curious (and willing to wait) to see where they’ll go from here.

During intermission, I have a chance to look around the room. I search in vain for a place to sit, having noticed earlier that the balcony is blocked off. The place isn’t full enough to justify the total absence of chairs, and I know the real reason they haven’t put out cabaret seating is pure laziness. I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised. I tried to check my coat but couldn’t pull the staff member away from her conversation, so I’m carrying that around. The bar staff look utterly bored. Only the security has any pep, and I find out the reason the next day from an industry insider: the Corona fired their entire security team a year ago, so these new guys are on their toes. It’s a real shame, because it’s a gorgeous venue, and I have two more shows to review there in December.

The stage is unadorned save for two large racks with horizontal blinds hanging nearly ceiling to floor. The backdrop is a drop sheet, and it gives the stage a bedroom-y feel, and as The Paper Kites come out, red lighting warms up the stage and of course, they play Red Light. I’m picturing myself in my teenage bedroom, lights off, music blaring, feeling all my feels like the electric guitar is playing the strings of my heart. For Deep Burns Blue, the lights predictably change, and the effect is that the area around the band ranges from indigo to lilac and back again while they remain mostly dark figures outlined by the uplighting.

Revelator Eyes is synth-y, and I know this because I spent the morning listening to Carly Rae Jepsen and reading about synth-y-ness. I want stronger vocals and more confidence. I want more of a vibe. I will leave wanting.

The band leader, Sam Bentley, had briefly said hello, and now he speaks to us in French and says something I can’t understand and everyone applauds his effort. They play Mess We Made, which feels like a throwback to the ’80s (and I’m wondering if this band is a tribute) and Too Late, which once again has me looking for a chair.

Before playing Nothing More Than That, Bentley describes that hipster-feeling of loving a band, and being so excited to hear them play live, and arriving at the show and feeling annoyed that other people are there and that they know the lyrics because it’s your band and this song is about how you feel. “If that’s you, I’m sorry,” he says. And then they play the song that is probably that song for the people who aren’t here to hear Bloom, the-one-that-made-it-gold. Bentley goes on to acknowledge the couples (woo!) and the sad singles – now there’s a big holler and he laughs and says “that’s our crowd.” I’m down for anything that makes people feel less alone, so even though I’m having trouble connecting with the lyrics, I let myself be absorbed into the sound and the style. Bentley sings Only One with his guitar while the rest of the band crowds around a single mic, and adding layers to his words and depth to the sound, and when Dave Powos comes in with the electric guitar, it’s a heartfelt country twang that feels like the crackling of the fire he mentions in the lyrics.

Now the stage goes totally black, and they play Arms in the dark. It’s another kind of showmanship, and I think once again how much better this show would work in a cozier venue. I feel like I’m falling asleep, and I’m grateful that the drums are back for When It Hurts You. Bentley introduces the rest of the band, and his writing partner and co-lead Christina Lacy get huge applause. A little more energy for Woodland, and then finally, the one I know: Bloom. It gets a cheer, and it’s a nice break from what has, thus far, felt a little boring.

With Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain, I get the feeling I’m in a John Hughes’ movie. It sounds like an anthem, like a boy in a bomber jacket is running after me in the rain. (Ideally, it’s John Cusack, and my shoes and my purse are matching neon, and somehow all that rain doesn’t ruin my makeup.) After On the Train Ride Home, they play my new favourite, Electric Indigo, and there is once again so much 80’s John Hughes-ness. I’m happy with it, but I can’t bring myself to stay for the encore. I like The Paper Kites, but I can’t listen to eighteen of their songs in a row. It’s one song – Bloom – on a “slow flow” playlist I made for yoga class that made me want to see this show. I’m feeling pretty resentful that the venue missed the mark too – this was sitting music. Maybe… it was sleeping music. Maybe I would have been happier hearing this band in a lounge, in a living room, or from my bed.

The next day, it isn’t The Paper Kites or even Wild Rivers that I have on repeat. It isn’t even Carly Rae Jepsen. I need a change. I’m listening, on the advice of those teenage boys, to Lil Baby. It’s the perfect antidote.

SETLIST

Red Light
Deep Burn Blue
Revelator Eyes
Mess We Made
Too Late
Nothing More Than That
Only One
Arms
When it Hurts You
Woodland
Bloom
A Gathering On 57th
Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain
On the Train Ride Home
Electric Indigo

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda

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