Sunday, March 1, 2009

Noise Pop 2009: Clues Played The Rickshaw Stop - Pictures, Review

The show from Clues last night at The Rickshaw Stop was simultaneously one of the most anticipated, and mysterious, of this year's Noise Pop festival. The Montreal band are the only project of Alden Penner since he departed the notorious Unicorns. Since the band made their debut last fall, there has been little-to-no news about their record, aside from one or two mp3s and feedback from fans who were at the shows. Well, HAD managed to catch the set at the Rickshaw last night, and suffice it to say that Clues are very much ready to deliver some amazing music.

Given that there was no prior exposure to most of the music played last night, it was a unique task for the band to deliver their set and at the same time drum up crowd enthusiasm. Remarkably, they did so with apparently very little effort: many of the songs were upbeat, danceable, and immediately accessible. What's more, the enthusiastic crowd was more than happy to embrace the set with open, dancing arms. That being said, the biggest reaction was undoubtedly for the lone mp3 released thus far, "Perfect Fit". We're guessing that once all the material gets out there, these shows will be nuts.

As for the band's sound, it was unquestionably louder, heavier, and synthier than the mp3 for "Perfect Fit". The band was constantly rotating instrumental duties, and it seemed that everyone on stage touched every instrument at some point during the set. That being said, it was very clearly Penner's show, with him singing lead on all but one of the songs, and having a significant swath of space from which to define his stage presence.

Many of the songs also wore Penner's influence on their sleeve, and we'd be lying if we didn't say that Clues seems to be a far more obvious legacy to The Unicorns than the other offshoot project Islands. Penner's vocals are so distinctive, his compositions so eclectic, and his stage presence so explosive yet edgy, that he can define a band just by being present on stage. What's more, it's clear that he was driving the arrangements, particularly in the encore with some of the less practiced material.

Obviously it's difficult to ultimately describe how a whole show's worth of material sounds live. That being said, the set by Clues last night was unquestionably fantastic. To be able to play a set of completely new material and suck in a sold out crowd is no small feat. What's more, Penner's legacy with The Unicorns is heavily lauded and scrutinized - delivering new material is always a questionable task that requires a gentle delivery.

Suffice it to say that Clues performed that delivery expertly: they've defined a sound that, while relying heavily on Penner's influence, is most certainly its own. Unicorns fans will definitely not be disappointed. More than that, we're guessing that they'll be more than pleasantly surprised that Penner and Co. have passed The Unicorns legacy to create something new, but equally great.

Many more photos at the HAD Archive.