Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench performed the song Stutter while spinning aerial somersaults in a harness above the audience like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.
Central Albertans were promised a concert-full of 1980s excesses — and that’s exactly what Ramsay and his band delivered to 2,600 young fans Wednesday night at Red Deer’s Centrium.
Cue the laser light show, the confetti cannons, the theatre smoke.
Also bring on chest-baring arena-rock costumes, skin-tight ripped jeans and snakeskin boots.
Ramsay, looking much thinner and blonder than the last time he played Red Deer three years ago, revealed more of himself than usual in low-waisted pants, dog-collar and little else.
Were those his painted-on abs on display? It didn’t matter to his teenage fans — or, apparently, to the boozed-up mothers a row back who couldn’t get enough of the singer as eye candy, based on their increasingly bawdy suggestions (you don’t want to know).
As Ramsay launched into the title-track of his band’s latest album, Astoria, it became obvious this was Marianas Trench as never heard before.
The group lyrical clarity was virtually lost to sound distortion as the pop-rock act went in the ear-splitting direction of Alexisonfire.
New songs such as Yesterday, This Means War, Burning Up, and even pop-infused radio hits like Celebrity Status and Desperate Measures were delivered in the aural assault style of Poison or Motley Crue.
While this was arguably not the greatest fit with Ramsay’s lyrical falsetto and vocal embellishments, his devoted young fans didn’t have to hear the words to sing along. They knew every song, line by line.
The band’s followers lit up their cellphones and swayed to Dearly Departed and danced in the aisles for Shut-up and Kiss Me, Cross My Heart, Fallout and Haven’t Had Enough, enjoying the spectacle of an ’80s-style rock concert.
Ramsay was mobbed by young females as he swaggered to the back of the arena to play a piano for the torchy One Love. When he returned to the main stage, he was awash in flood lights as a rain effect showered on a video screen behind him.
The screen was previously filled with Miami Vice-style neon palm trees — an appropriate backdrop for the other talented group members, bassist Mike Ayley, guitarist Matt Webb and drummer Ian Casselman. Dressed with the subtlety of an ’80s hair band, they took every opportunity to pose imposingly with their instruments.
With the incredible light show, Ramsay’s aerial acrobatics and the other retro-rock touches, what can I say? Marianas Trench is never boring.
But the strongest music of the evening was created by the five-plus musicians of Walk Off the Earth.
The energetic, engaging Ontario band made its entrance amid blaring trumpets, rousing percussion and columns of stage smoke. Gianni “Luminati” Nicassio started singing Gang of Rhythm’s intro “I’ve got this old guitar…” and was soon joined by Sarah Blackwood on ukelele and Mike Taylor, Ryan Marshall and Joel Cassidy on various drums and shakers.
Their instruments were eventually expanded to include kazoos, whirly tubes, a glockenspiel and I believe a Harpejji (flat electric guitar/harp/piano hybrid), as the group performed original tunes, as well as covers from Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, Adele and Gotye. Somebody That I Used to Know was performed by all five musicians on one guitar — a trick that landed the band a spot on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
As a red beach ball bounced over the crowd, Walk Off the Earth played REVO, the infectious Rule the World, and Sing It All Away, the title track of the band’s new album, with help from fans. An impressive drum line kicked off Red Hands, involving all seven musicians pounding out a militaristic beat.
At one point, a video was made with the audience to be posted on Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Apparently, even when you’re making actual face-time with fans it doesn’t hurt to also connect on social media.
Walk Off the Earth, which made a splash on YouTube, obviously hasn’t forgotten where it all started.
The concert opened with Vancouver’s Kieran Mercer performing with a trio.
Mercer is a witty, likeable artist, who plays Beatles-esque music with jangly guitars and toe-tapping beats. A highlight was Help Me Help You, which got fans clapping along.