Date of show: November 10, 2012
Written by: Chiara DiAngelo
It’s one thing to cover a classic song, it’s an entirely different matter to cover an entire classic album. But if any band could be up to the challenge it would be Toronto’s The Darcys. Their interpretation of Aja is in no way a simple tribute to Steely Dan, nor does it even closely resemble the original works (i.e. they don’t break out the saxophone). It is fully a reimagination of the songs in a densely textured style that is all The Darcys, which is likely why it works so well. Anyone not versed in the jazz rock band could easily believe they were all Darcys originals. Having released the album earlier this year, one or two of the tracks have made it into their setlist. But this time, they decided to take it on the road, playing the record from top to bottom. Another bold move, yet there really wasn’t any other way that it would have worked.
Lee’s Palace was packed by the time the band took the stage, looking dapper in their suits. There was a predominance of younger females in attendance, many of whom quite possibly had never heard the original 1977 versions. The four-piece was also joined by Mike Denby on guitar to fill out some of the larger-scale sounds created on the record. The band calls the album an “exploration of physical and emotional space and the real and imaginary divisions within it” and the stills projected behind them added a fitting additional layer of artisticness to the performance.
From the opening notes, The Darcys immediately brought us into their world and by the midpoint of “Black Cow” we were all fully immersed in their intricate mastery. Jason Couse (vocals, guitar, keys) started out seated at the piano and it wasn’t until “Deacon Blues” that he switched to guitar. The band really came alive during “Peg” before toning it down momentarily. A quieter intro into moody next song “Home At Last” unfortunately allowed the excited din of the crowd to take over for a time before their collective attention was recaptured – in part by Wes Marskell pounding on the drums. On last song, the haunting piano-heavy “Josie,” Marskell left the drums and joined Couse on the keys as well. As the song came to a close, the band members left the stage one by one until just Couse was left tinkling away. Returning soon after, they treated the crowd to two favourites: “Shaking Down The Old Bones” and “Edmonton to Purgatory” before ending the night.
The entire performance was stunning, exactly as we imagined and hoped it would be ever since the record was released. If you somehow haven’t picked it up yet, Aja is still available for free download on the band’s website.
Mexico City’s Rey Pila supported The Darcys for the length of the Aja tour. Supported by deep synthy undertones, the band was fronted by Diego Solórzano. He sang in English, with his vocals alternating between higher new wave-ish to deeper than expected. Caught up in the music, his added jerky and awkward dance moves were highly endearing.
They ended with the catchy “No Longer Fun.” The increased level of enthusiasm from the crowd may have encouraged Solórzano to step down off the stage to finish the song. As an opening act in a place where the majority of people were unfamiliar with the band, it resulted in an awkward moment as most of the audience in his vicinity took a step backwards rather than getting into it. It was an unfortunate way to end a fairly enjoyable set.
Opening the night was Montreal’s Receivers. Playing dark and heavily-layered music that reminded me a lot of Young Galaxy, the vocals provided by frontwoman Emilie Marzinotto were even highly reminiscent of Catherine McCandless’. The five-piece also includes guitarist Joseph Donovan, who happens to be a well-known music producer and engineer.
A high level of musical talent residing in the band, Marzinotto’s attempts at banter were sadly unsuccessful at creating a bond between her and the audience. Another drawback to their performance was the use of the projector to display moving pictures behind them. Rather than adding to, it instead acted as a distraction to their performance, making it difficult to concentrate on them at times. Beyond the melodica being pulled out at one point (which always seems to wins me over), the highlight of their set was the smoothly expansive closing track, “Devotional.”