Blitzen Trapper + Quiet Life @ Bar Le Ritz – June 16th 2016

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The last time Blitzen Trapper headlined here in Montreal in April 2008, the sparsely-attended show at Sala Rossa was opened by a little-known band called Fleet Foxes. In the intervening period, Fleet Foxes shot to fame (in alternative circles, at least), released 2 albums, headlined Metropolis, formed side projects that have done the same (Father John Misty just this year), and gone on a hiatus. Blitzen Trapper, on the other hand, aside from an Osheaga set in 2010, never came back…until now. There are 50 or so assembled tonight at Bar Le Ritz, many more than last time, and they’ve been waiting a long time for this.

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Portland’s Quiet Life open the show, with a very bluesy half hour set, and set the 70’s Rock n Roll vibe for the evening. Songs slow down and speed up, laced with classic guitar solo’s and shuffling drum beats, and set the stage nicely for the Headliners. The frontmans “Springsteen for President” t-shirt only adds to this homage to musical times past!

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Blitzen Trapper then take to the stage, and frontman Eric Earley acknowledges “we haven’t been here in 7 years; it’s good to be back!”, before opening the set with the appropriately titled “Rock And Roll”. Again, it’s a blast back to the 70’s, and sounds very Creedence Clearwater Revival indeed! Sleepy Time In The Western World has a much more stripped down feel to it, with Eric and keyboardist/guitarist Marty Marquis sharing vocal duties on a perfectly harmonized acapella intro. Following this song, Eric mentions how the last time they were here, their tour van was broken into and Marty’s underwear stolen, to which Marty responds “you’re welcome!”

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Summer Rain begins with a piano intro sounding not unlike Let It Be, before vocals take over that sound a lot like Bruce Springsteen…another Springsteen reference! Love Grow Cold is the closest thing we hear to a ballad tonight, with echo-ey guitar distortions and vocals now sounding a little more Jesse Malin or Ryan Adams. Not Your Lover sees a good chunk of the crowd fervently sing back the chorus, not exactly at the level of the Brand New shows last weekend, but not bad for the size of the crowd!

Eric dons the full harmonica headgear for next songs, Astronaut and Love The Way You Walk Away, with guitarist Erik Menteer using guitar effects on the latter to replicate a slide guitar, giving a real bluegrass feel to this part of the set. Furr sees the audience participation return again, creating a great atmosphere, which, at Marty’s beckoning, is joined by a chorus of clapping too. Drummer Brian Adrian Koch goes on to remark that this was the best clap-along they ever had; “Montreal got rhythm!”

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The intro to the next song sounds a lot like “Knockin’ On Heavens Door”… primarily because it is, we soon realize, and the vocals start, much more like the Bob Dylan version than the Guns n Roses one! Again, everyone sings and claps along in approval. Normal Rock n Roll service is resumed with Thirsty Man and All Across This Land, the title track from their most recent record, concluding the set with impressive guitar solos and extended outros, with a smattering of synth thrown in for good measure.

The band return for a 4-song encore, beginning with Helplessly Hoping, an acoustic cover of an old Crosby Stills & Nash tune, performed by just Eric and Marty, before the rest of the band rejoins for arguably the band’s signature tune Black River Killer, a bluesy narrative in the vain of Johnny Cash, which is rapturously received despite the feedback issues encountered which clearly leave Eric a little exasperated! The encore concludes with Cinnamon Girl, a Neil Young cover, and Fletcher, before the band leaves the stage for good after 85 minutes of good old-fashioned bluesy Rock n Roll. All in all, it’s a welcome return to Montreal for Blitzen Trapper. Let’s just hope they don’t leave it so long before coming back next time around!

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Set List
Rock And Roll (Was Made For You)
Big Black Bird
Sleepytime In The Western World
Sadie
Summer Rain
Love Grow Cold
Not Your Lover
Astronaut
Love The Way You Walk Away
Lonesome Angel
Silver Moon
Furr
Knockin’ On Heavens Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Thirsty Man
All Across This Land

Helplessly Hoping (Crosby Stills & Nash cover)
Black River Killer
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young cover)
Fletcher

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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