It’s hard to believe that it has almost been two weeks since Marianas Trench brought their The Last Crusade tour to the Scotiabank Centre here in Halifax. Fortunately, Halifax was one of the last shows of the opening string of dates on this tour due to Josh’s throat infection and subsequent scar tissue. The diagnosis resulted in doctor’s orders to rest his voice until the new year. While it was unfortunate for the legions of Trenchers who were looking forward to seeing the band, the shows were rescheduled, and it’ll only be a little delay.
Personally, I have been a fan of the band since their debut Fix Me and the infectiously catchy track “Shaketramp”, but in recent years my listening tastes have changed and I’ve drifted away from the Vancouver band’s work. They’ve always existed on my listening periphery but, prior to seeing the show in Halifax, I was largely unfamiliar with the material off of the band’s latest ’80s inspired effort Astoria. (Hey you guys, how can you not appreciate the killer reference to the Goonies.)
The crowd demographics had me reminiscing to seeing My Chemical Romance in Ottawa during The Black Parade tour, as much of both crowds were comprised of early-late teens who were either hanging out with their fellow Trenchers, or had a parent in tow. I met a pair of concert goers who were proud to profess their love of Marianas Trench, but also explained that should anyone ask, they had some fictitious children at home. This was primarily due to the fact that we were close in age (late 30s – early 40s), but I just want to let them know, there’s no shame in digging this band, as the legions of Trenchers in Halifax would have you know.
The crowd was treated to a high-energy show that didn’t leave any fans out of the action, as lead singer Josh Ramsey hopped off stage and proceeded to create a procession around half of the floor, making his way to a piano staged by the soundboard. It was a great way to include those people sitting at the back of the room, and you can tell as the ladies in the audience flocked to the boards to get a closer glance at the engaging front-man. The set was focused heavily on Astoria, while working in fan favourites “Stutter”, “Cross my Heart” and “Pop 101” from 2010’s Masterpiece Theatre, and a handful of cuts off of Ever After (including “Desperate Measures”).
Not only did we get a killer set from the headliners, but the trio of acts who kicked the night off, including a pair of Newfoundland acts, got the crowd energized with some great sets too. The first being Janet Cull, who won something of a talent contest to earn the opportunity to play an opening set on the big stage. Josh Ramsey introduced the band and explained that starting out, MT had to scratch and claw for every opportunity, and rather than having an unnecessarily competitive community, decided to offer an opportunity that they were never afforded. Cull and co. left a great impression on those in attendance with their brand of pop-infused country music.
The next act was one that HAFILAX has been following since 2014, and leap at any opportunity to see perform live. That act is Repartee, who are back in Halifax for their 4th show in 2016, as their album release show was held down the street at the intimate Carleton Bar and Grill, and to close out the year they are on the main stage in the Scotiabank Centre. It just goes to show that their debut full-length album All Lit Up has been gaining steam since its release in late April, and with each subsequent show the crowd has only grown exponentially. It’s always fun to see the band play “Dukes”, “Electric Every Day” and “Miracle” live in person, as they are great studio tracks, that take on a life of their own when played live.
Third on the bill was Shawn Hook, another artist I wasn’t overly familiar with (well, beyond the songwriter’s ubiquitous tune “Sound of Your Heart”). He was certainly not unfamiliar to the crowd in attendance, as they loved his R&B-infused pop-rock sound (think electro Maroon 5). Hook’s poppy-tunes had an added backbone supplied by guitarist Lonny Eagleton, whose guitar work was equally impressive in support of Hook’s sound. Shawn Hook sounded great, but I’m definitely outside of his target demo.
Going in, there was some discussion among the team at HAFILAX about the ticket price, but after experiencing the show in person, it made sense to me. The band has developed a fairly elaborate stage set up, with the drummer perched high above the action on the LCD screen, but the energy conveyed by front-man Ramsey was reciprocated in full by the Haligoons in attendance. Now, there are the naysayers who would happily write the band off, but for a front man who bears a striking similarity to both Marilyn Manson and Iggy Pop, and has some vocal chops that at times bear some flourishes that reminded me of Prince, it was a show that satisfied all in attendance (clearly indicated by the squee level in the room). It was a great night of music in Halifax, and hopefully Josh Ramsey makes a speedy recovery and Marianas Trench can wrap up the second leg of The Last Crusade tour.