Plants and Animals At Lee’s Palace in Toronto on Saturday
“What’s gonna happen to you,” Plants and Animals singer Warren C. Spicer asked first thing, melodically and with worry. “You have woke up too soon, and found the world rearranged. And now your feelings have changed.”
The last time I saw the Montreal indie-rockers they had closed their show with the rousing Bye Bye Bye, a big dynamic tune in the way of Freddie Mercury and Queen, in which the audience shared in the swaying sing-along chorus.
Now the band was opening its sold-out show at Lee’s Palace on Saturday with that same song, except that the line “say goodbye to before” was a start, not an end. I almost felt that the band had paused everything just for me, and now the second act was just about to begin.
“This is a song on the crazy side,” Spicer said, introducing Crisis!, an off-kilter garage-rock vamp off the band’s latest album, The End Of That, the follow-up to 2010’s Stones-inspired La La Land. Spicer sang lines about friends all around him starting families, while for him the “heartbreak hotel” – yes, cringe, he actually went there – was a worn-out place: “I’m getting tired of the freefall, I’m looking forward to the spring.”
And on like that. A muscular, rhythmic concert was about renewal, performed for an audience absolutely ready for that vibe. It all led to Lightshow, which began with the choppy acoustic strum and existential keening of Spicer, his voice stretched a bit as he fretted about a world shaking and falling through his hands – “maybe I should change my point of view.” Guitarist Nicolas Basque used a gurgling Leslie speaker sound early on Lightshow, before switching to a raw, over-driven effect for a short solo. He has a nice, sharp, economical style, played on this or that Gibson electric.
The title track showed up as the first encore number, with extra female singers (including indie-folk darling Basia Bulat) joining the four-piece for a likable, upbeat folk-rock strum. The End of That is about trying things out – cocaine, a girl, the blues – and getting over them. “Can’t we just say that was the end of that,” is the rhetorically posed resolution.
Faerie Dance, a stoned, sprawling jam off 2008’s psychedelic-leaning Parc Avenue album, followed. Was that a Keith Moon short drum solo by Matthew Woodley? Could have sworn.
The finale was a salute to Levon Helm, the drummer and drawled voice of The Band who died on Thursday. The stage was full of extra singers for The Weight, a timeless Robbie Robertson song about looking for a place to hide or somewhere to lay one’s head, but being unable to do so.
Plants and Animals sent off Helm commendably. As for the lyricist Spicer, he seems to be leaving things in the past as he attempts a fresh start – taking a load off, but not for free.