The Besnard Lakes, Final Flash

Dominic Valvona 20/08/2010

It astounds me how a band as important and damn right desideratum at this present time, can only hold court in a tiny venue, one that barely fits over a hundred people - something adhered to by guitarist Richard White's quip “Welcome to our first annual claustrophobic meeting!”

The low level ceiling and tight confines coupled with an over zealous sound desk - far too much sub woofer and rattling resonance - all seemed to add to the general cramped conditions, nearly smothering the sweeping ambitious opuses that emit from our diaphanous ethereal Canadian quartet. Thankfully despite any problems they manage to triumphantly grab victory from the jaws of defeat.

Launching straight into the sprawling behemoth 'Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent' from the latest album 'Are The Roaring Night', there's a slight hiccup with the pre-programmed introductory synthesized vistas, but its totally irrelevant as they plough on to the big chorus and strident titan rock riffs, before effortlessly moving into the bombastic blasting 'Devastation' from their 2007 tome 'Are The Dark Horse'.

Jace as usual sports his usual cowboy shirt, massive glasses and thick head of semi-permed flowing locks as he swoons those assiduous empyreal falsetto vocals, taking on the full scope of both the Wilson twins and Mike Love, all conducting a modern historical opuscule rock opera to General Wolfe.

His startling graceful voice fragilely conducts 'Chicago Train', as Olga magics up a flute for the rousing David Axlerod-esque introduction, slowly moving towards the main refrain where the whole band all enter the fray, as we, the audience, all hold our breath in anticipation for the lines “This is the last train to Chicago, no matter where I will go, I'd spy on you”.

Highlights are many of course, but the crowd raised appreciative applause when the first majestic vibrato strains of the single 'Albatross' echoes round the room.

Even in this live atmosphere Olga delivers a heartbreaking lamented rendition of this sophomore shoegazing masterpiece.

Both 'And This Is What We Call Progress' and 'Land Of The Living Skies' are given vehement work-out, with Jace enjoying himself enough to throw some shapes, face contorted with concentration as he chucks out the full itinerary of gliding solos.

The Besnard Lakes dig back into the second album again, pulling out the grandiose sprawling opus 'Disaster', which sounds truly electrifying, even in the contained space, and 'You Lied To Me', which is also equally memorable, with its extended jamming XTC and Talk Talk redolent melody ruthlessly knocked into shape.

Supporting them were fellow Canadians Final Flash, who reside in Montreal and share a similar dress code to Jace. They look like they've been dragged back from the 70s, and sound very much of that era, mixing Led Zeppelin with Tom Petty to produce a sort of analytical progressive folk rock. One of their members sported an impressive 6-string and 12-string combo guitar, not often seen in the last 30 years outside prog-rock; unfortunately we couldn't hear it very well, which was a shame, as they obviously like to mix intricate playing with multi-layers of sound.

Some of their fare makes humbling nods to the Besnards - not surprising seeing as Jace produced their debut album 'Homeless' back in May - yet they can't quite seem to make much of an impression on me.

The Besnard Lakes prove to be among Canada's finest exports - not an easy task when you see the sheer quality invading our shores from our former colony- performing a catalogue of concatenate songs that demand a captivated audience and certain appreciation, which they get here in droves.

I'd still love to see them perform an album in its entirety from start to finish as envisioned on the original albums. Let's be honest, they're not a singles band or the type of band you just dip into when you fancy, no, they're far too important for that.