You made a big mistake, Seattle.
Well - not all of you. There were 27 hearty folks, including this reviewer, who made the trip out to the beautifully remodeled Columbia City Theater to see Wintersleep last Thursday. It was a wonderful, if beguiling, treat for the lucky ones who got to see this band (2008 Juno Award winners,)play their hearts out after openers Elliott Brood. While there was nothing bad about the latter, their simple formula on sing-along-folk-pop begged for something to make it exciting again; a wrench in the spokes, so to speak. Impressive multi-instrumentalists, all, their set was well received by the crowd in attendance, who seemed more than happy to dance and chime in on all the "Woahs" and "Ahhs".
Wintersleep, on the other hand, have every right to be filling much larger venues all over the U.S., much as they do in Canada and Europe, no questions asked. This night they focused heavily on material from 2007's ridiculously good Welcome To The Night Sky
as well as this year's Hello Hum
- their fifth album to date. Standouts from the albums, certainly including "Weighty Ghost", "In Came the Flood", and "Miasmal Smoke & the Yellow Bellied Freaks", proved to be standouts live as well. Guitar parts that, on record, might be more of a textural wash jumped out in person, breaking off the high ceilings, aided by the the incredibly dynamic, creative, and propulsive rhythm section of the band. All of it was pulled together by Paul Murphy's humble and engaging delivery as a front-man and Jon Samuel's silky smooth harmonies (though it seemed just about everyone was singing at one point or another).
It takes a certain amount of assuredness to take the stage in front of an intimate crowd and play the same show one would opening for, say, Sir Paul McCartney (they did that, by the way), but it takes a truly great band to pull it off in such impressive style. Do yourself a favor and buy a ticket next time they come around. (And sidenote to Wintersleep: Come around again soon.)