Something pretty zen was in the air Friday night.
Or as Mother Mother frontman Ryan Guldemond put it: “Tonight’s got the right stuff . . .You never can tell how the voodoo’s going to shape up, but it’s taking shape just lovely . . . ”
With such mantra-like pronouncements, the lanky singer/guitarist cast a karmic spell on about 550 fans of his Vancouver-based band at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre. And it was a mojo-packed evening all around.
You know you’re not at just any rock show when a fervid fan yells out, “I appreciate your music!” — then looks slightly abashed at his own forwardness.
And Guldemond can makes such grand, sweeping, guru-like statements as “Breathe the air of life!” and “It’s important in life to be loud and to be in the moment.”
But Mother Mother is such a talented band it proved it’s possible to be both existentialist and lively.
The quintet created a rare musical alchemy with killer harmonies and off-kilter rhythms at Friday’s concert. And an enthusiastic group of mostly college-age fans leapt up to groove to new-wave-ish tunes that echoed Depeche Mode, The B-52s and Metric without losing Mother Mother’s unique, upbeat brand.
Interesting song lyrics kept the group’s devotees listening raptly as they bopped along.
“How did I ever get so freaky?” asked the tune Reaper Man (from Mother Mother’s latest album, A Very Good Bad Thing). I Go Hungry hungered after the truth, and Get Out The Way contained the line: “There’s something in the way/Oh, it’s just me and my brain.”
Higher and baser instincts were often contrasted in the tunes — a running theme for songwriter Guldemond, who seems fascinated by the perverse, conflicted aspects of human nature.
The concert opened with his silhouetted form standing up on the drum platform during Have It Out. In Body of Years, the multifaceted singer was framed by the group’s two singing keyboard players at either end of the stage — his sister Molly and Jasmin Parkin.
Chasing It Down served up some staccato vocals and jazzy harmonies. Infinitesimal, which spotlighted Molly Guldemond and Parkin briefly dancing like go-go girls, emphasized how trivial we are in the scheme of things, while Wrecking Ball, with a child-like melody interspersed with loud outbursts, was about letting it all out.
The band launched into the atmospheric Ghosting, before embarking on a three-song marathon of Let’s Fall in Love, merging with O My Heart, and A Very Good Bad Thing, with its tinkly keyboard closer.
My favourite song of the evening, Monkey Tree, was sung by Ryan and the two women in a charming falsetto. It was followed by Parkin crooning the lead on the seductive Video Games. This one included some hallucinogenic guitar riffs and an intense, experimental bass line by bassist Jeremy Page, who sported a pointy beard Rasputin would have envied.
The song ended in a cacophony of crashing cymbals, courtesy of the group’s crack drummer, Ali Siadat.
Hay Loft, Bit By Bit and the group’s biggest hit, The Stand, wrapped up the concert before an acoustic version of Dirty Town and an electric rendering of Simply Simple Song were delivered as an encore.
“Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your lives! Don’t think too much about it, just enjoy,” said Ryan, who possibly summarized the secret to happiness right there.
If his advice doesn’t do the trick, seeing the next buoyant Mother Mother concert will certainly help.
The evening’s opening band was the effusive and mega-watt kinetic USS, from Toronto. These guys absolutely have to be experienced live.
There’s turntable-ist Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons, who wore a tiger-patterned tuxedo/hoodie, cartwheeled across the stage, and stood on his head while clapping his feet in the air behind his synthesizer.
There’s vocalist/guitarist Ashley Buchholz, who played like a grunge musician and sang catchy toe-tappers such as Yin Yang, Freakquency and This is the Best.
Along with drummer Matt Murphy, USS is an inimitable act that deserves whatever attention Parsons, the group’s self-described hype man, is flagging down.