It’s funny how you can sometimes remember exactly how you discovered a band. One of my favourite bands of all time is Explosions In The Sky, and in an effort to satiate my appetite for yet more post-rock, I looked up lists of the “10 Best Post-Rock Records.” Number 1 on many of those? 1996’s Millions Now Living Will Never Die, by Chicago 5-piece Tortoise. That was the moment, and I’ve been listening ever since.
Upon entering the resplendent Theatre Rialto tonight on the penultimate night of Pop Montreal, it’s clear that there’s a definite age demographic associated with Tortoise. Lots of grey hair, lots of wrinkles, and not a Tik-Tok’er in sight. Certainly, nobody under the age of 30 as far as I can see! It’s the first night of a 5-city run, their first tour in 2½ years; kudos to the organizers for making Montreal one of those 5!
It’s a fascinating show, as band members rotate from instrument to instrument throughout. Things start out somewhat distant from the atmospheric post-rock vibes you’ve come to associate with the band, or with the genre in general; Monica sounds more like a jazz improv with opposing drummers hammering away in perfect time… perhaps now post-jazz is a thing?! In Sarah, Mencken, Christ, And Beethoven… then layers in the funk, before a mammoth Ten Day Interval blows away the floor and the balcony simultaneously, as 3 guys simultaneously playing xylophone create Jean Michel Jarre-esque soundscapes that could easily soundtrack a Kubrick movie. Judging by the volume of clips that the band share on their Instagram page afterwards (mine included), it was the highlight for many this evening.
A few songs later, and from my vantage spot on the balcony, I see a few on the floor dancing frenetically, limbs flailing in all directions. I become instantly curious as to what the vibe must be like down there because the balcony is way more laid-back (as is usually the case, I suppose). So I venture downstairs, and sure enough, things are a lot different. The bass is heavier, the lights are brighter, and the show is immediately more immersive. Eros takes us down a truly electronica path reminiscent of the mighty Four Tet before Crest closes out the main set in grandiose manner; “thank you!” is the first thing anyone in the band says to the crowd all night as the band scurry off stage.
After a short break, the rumbling bass stirs back to life to introduce the stutter-step snare drums of Tin Cans & Twine, which ultimately sounds so much more powerful live than on record. Seneca ends the show for good in a blaze of dazzling spotlights and a flurry of handclaps from around the room, stage included. The mark of a confident band? To not play a single song from the “number 1 best post-rock record” the entire night. 1998’s TNT gets the most representation, which is totally fine by me too! A storming 90 minutes, and a fine return for Tortoise.
- Prepare Your Coffin
- In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women and Men
- Ten-Day Interval
- Swung From the Gutters
- I Set My Face to the Hillside
- The Suspension Bridge at Iguazú Falls
- High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In
- Tin Cans & Twine
Review & photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :