2022, Music

Archers of Loaf Live at Lee’s Palace Wednesday January 11, 2023

Last night I saw Archers of Loaf on the tour for their first album in something like 24 years. Like many ’90s bands, I got into them backwards (listened to their final album first) and can’t say I know them as well as many of their contemporaries. (I listened to their last album, then their first, then I stopped.) But, the older I get, the more often I want to take advantage of things like this. They said it was their first visit to Lee’s Palace since 1996. With my attitude to nostalgia softening and bands like this ageing, I figured I have to jump on the opportunity, even when I’m not as a big a fan as I am of some other bands from back then.

The opening number was really rough: you could hear the age in both Bachmann’s and Gentling’s voices, and you couldn’t hear Johnson’s guitar at all. It turned out, some of that was the mix more than it was them and on the next few songs the vocals were better though I still couldn’t hear Johnson. After 3 or 4 songs he asked them to turn his guitar up and it got a bit better. Mid set he did the same thing and it got better. But, what was a pretty fun night was definitely not helped by the sound. When the band thanked the engineer they blamed themselves for how shitty they might sound. (Specifically Bachmann intimated he can’t sing as well as he used to.) But that guitar being too low (and the vocals and especially the bass being too high) was, for me, the biggest issue with the show.

Because they had a ton of energy, especially for men their age. Gentling in particular basically never stops moving and performs as if he’s in an even louder band. (Though they were plenty loud.) Despite Bachmann’s claim he can’t sing like he used to, and despite how rough they sounded on the opener, he can still sing pretty well, too. And one other thing impresses: I’m not sure it’s always so clear on record how complicated some of their riffs are but…jesus, you have to know how to play to play rhythm guitar in this band.

For me, the best part was being in a small venue where everyone was in love with the band. With two exceptions, the shows I’ve seen since the pandemic were all in big venues: Comerica Park, Budweiser Stage, Massey Hall. And the shows where the fans went nuts were outside to boot. But not last night. Last night the crowd was enthralled and it was small (ish). This made a big impression on me (with the crowd singing/shouting along and jumping up and down) but also on the band, who complimented everyone more than once. For example, at the beginning of “You and Me,” they repeated the intro bass part over and over again, as Bachmann tuned up. And the crowd just started singing the song. The band was laughing and were kind of surprised, it seemed, to have the crowd singing their song to them before they’d started singing.

The set was 1/3rd from Icky Mettle and the rest from their other albums, with more of a focus on the new one. Only one track from my favourite, the weird one, White Trash Heroes, but I expected that because nobody likes it. (As I said, I started listening to them with their last album, which I discovered while DJing at CJMQ decades ago.)

They mostly stuck to the songs, only stretching a couple out. Usually, that’s not my favourite thing. But the energy of the band and the crowd was great. And, despite the sound problem, I realized partway through the show that I was really glad I went.

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