THE RECORD COMPANY
The Velvet Underground || Toronto, Ontario || 21 May 2017
Playing a gig on a May holiday weekend in Toronto can be a tricky thing as folks head out of the city to enjoy the warm spring weather. In the case of The Record Company gig on Sunday May 21st at The Velvet Underground, we didn’t have to leave town to have a scorching good time.
I haven’t been to this venue since it was a club that played mostly industrial music. Its reincarnation in Feb 2016 as a live music venue has been a welcome one; with exposed brick and wooden beams it is an earthy, organic, pared down setting for music of the same kind.
I heard “Off the Ground” early last year and excitedly asked friends if they had too. My interpretation of Alex Stiff’s bass line accompanied by air bass playing was met with puzzled looks and suggestions not to quit my day job. An ear worm of a song with a powerful message to “Quit lying to myself and let the truth be told”; a lyric that often pops into my head when I am self-aware enough to call bullshit on whatever I am (or am not) doing with my life.
The Record Company, like genre-defying artists Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Rival Sons, Blackberry Smoke and The Temperance Movement, play music that draws from a rich variety of inspirations but as Chris Vos (guitar/lead vocals/ harmonica) announced as they hit the stage “We are The Record Company and we play Rock ‘N Roll”.
This is foot-stomping, head-bopping, hip-swiveling, lip-biting, snarly-Elvis-face, good time rock. The live set is a more robust and harder rocking version of their music. From “On the Move” to encore “In the Mood” the age-spanning audience was all in; singing, clapping, cheering and adding “heys” and “whoas” where required. Toronto crowds can be jaded and fickle but not this time.
“Baby I’m Broken” is a dirty, slightly distorted, harmonica driven tune that makes me want to dance along a bar top Coyote Ugly style; “Night Games” is new material that makes you excited to hear more; “Feels So Good” and “The Burner” risked setting the place ablaze and when Chris asked, “Is it warm in here?” He damn well knew they had ignited the fire that had the crowd basking in the heat.
The acoustic trio of “Crooked City”, “I’m Changing” (new tune) and “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (Dylan cover) brought drummer Marc Cazorla out of the shadows cast by blinding stage lights to the front of the stage to play keyboards, and turned our urban venue into a good ole honky tonk. It’s a welcome slowing down of the pace a little to grab a beer, bond with fellow concert goers, and enjoy these multi- talented musicians.
The cover of The Beastie Boys’ “So Whatcha’ Want” followed by “Turn Me Loose” with its “Do whatcha’ want” line is a clever lyrical pairing.
“Off the Ground” was met with expected enthusiasm (and my delight at seeing that I’m not the only one who plays groovy air bass to it!)
(See setlist below for songs and the order in which they were played.
I was at the gig with our photographer (he was unfamiliar with TRC) who texted that he would take a few shots at the beginning of the show and then come back and join me closer to the soundboard. I told him to stay where he was as he would never get a chance to photograph the band in a small venue like this again. I received a text from him just before the encore. “Fucking amazing”
Go see them now in smaller venues where you can sweat your ass off, get goose bumps and feel like you are part of something special. And then go see them when they are headlining venues like the Air Canada Center where they opened for John Mayer in April. Go see them again and again and again because they are quite simply Fucking Amazing.
- On The Move
- Baby I’m Broken
- Hard Day Coming Down
- Night Games
- Rita Mae Young
- Feels So Good
- This Crooked City (acoustic)
- I’m Changing (acoustic)
- Subterranean Blues (acoustic)
- Don’t Let Me Get Lonely
- So Whatcha’ Want
- Turn Me Loose
- Off the Ground
- The Burner
- In the Mood For You
THE RECORD COMPANY