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4 months after playing a WXPN-sponsored “Free at Noon” show at World Cafe Live, THE DEARS came back to headline the TLA. Hot on the heels of their terrific but largely overlooked newest album Gang of Losers, I was very much looking forward to this show as they’ve been a perennial favorite of mine for years now and also because I haven’t seen them play a full set in almost 2 years. The last 2 occasions I’d seen them play were the shortened World Cafe Live set and before that a short set on the main stage of the Siren Festival in the summer of 2005. They played well, but something was missing on this evening. The set felt a bit rote as they played about half of the songs on Gang of Losers followed by 3 or 4 songs from their 2004 album No Cities Left. After that, they went back to playing the rest of the songs from Gang of Losers. While I enjoyed seeing all of the new songs being played live, some of which I’d never seen them do before, it felt like they were just going through the motions. Of course, being the formidable live band that they are, a Dears show where they’re going through the motions is still a way better show than most bands can give. Still, perhaps the lackluster feeling I got from the show was due to the fact that the TLA was mostly empty. Then again, they absolutely and completely blew me away when I saw for the first time 3 years ago playing to a mostly empty room at Maxwells on a weeknight, so perhaps this was just a bum show. Furthermore, while a large portion of the crowd seemed to leave after opening band THE ANNUALS, several others fled during The Dears set. Granted, it was a cold, Wednesday night, but it makes me wonder why the Dears were even booked there. They would’ve packed a smaller venue like the First Unitarian Church, but at the larger, more impersonal TLA, they tanked. They clearly don’t have the audience here to headline a venue like that and that’s a shame because they’re a great band. While I was a bit disappointed, I nevertheless eagerly await their next appearance in town as I hope the choice of venue and atmosphere is better-suited for them.
I only caught the last song of the opening set by The Annuals as we got there a bit late. While they seemed to draw a considerably larger audience than the headliners did (perhaps because of recent blogger attention), I wasn’t impressed at all with what I saw. They seemingly had about a dozen people on stage including 2 drummers and a lead singer that banged on yet another drum as he was singing. It was frankly a bit of an annoying, cacophonous mess. Sure they had the intensity and the energy of a band like fellow Canadians THE ARCADE FIRE, but they lack the strong material that amazing band has. Perhaps with time they’ll get better.