Murray A. Lightburn, who’s best known for fronting Montreal rock outfit the Dears, headlined a night of heartfelt music at the Fox Cabaret last night.
Armed with an electric guitar, first opener Sam Lynch brought serenity with songs like “Christine.” They were so hush, monitor buzz was audible. But when she was joined by a violinist for the second half of her set, they managed to cover up all distracting sounds and draw all attention to her budding alt-folk.
Next was Jenny Banai, the most rounded of all three acts, with a bassist, a drummer, and herself on guitar. Their sound was full and lively, perfect for her smooth, sometimes poppy, always emotional rock. Comparisons to Feist are apt, but think more Monarch than her later discography.
Whether on his own or with the Dears, Murray A. Lightburn is always punching up. It was no different at his solo acoustic show last night.
Lightburn, dapper as always in a black suit, opened with a string of songs from his new album Hear Me Out including “I Need You,” “Centre of My Universe,” and “Anew.” One of the album’s greatest highlights is the Motown-lite vocal harmonies, whether multi-tracked his own voice or was backed by singers Catherine McCandless and Ariel Engle. Alone at the microphone, his voice had all the room it needed to shine – some in-house competition notwithstanding.
Lightburn introduced a segment of Dears songs. “I usually grab what I call the easy ones, or ‘favs.’ But it really means the ones I think I won’t fuck up,” he said with unnecessary humility. He began with “There Goes My Outfit.” The most arresting part, an a cappella passage that doesn’t exist on the recorded version – was overpowered by thumping beats from an event occurring upstairs in the Fox’s lounge the Projection Room. “Is it just me, or is it getting louder?” Lightburn asked in the middle of his story about how “Ticket of Immortality” was, at one time, the only song that could quiet his firstborn. If only the song could have quieted the Projection Room too.
Lightburn went on to play nearly as many Dears songs, mostly from their 2006 album Gang of Losers, as his own songs. Dears selections included “Lights Off,” one of his favourite songs from one of his favourite Dears albums, 2008’s Missiles. From their 2003 breakthrough No Cities Left, he dusted off “Warm and Sunny Days.” For the encore, Lightburn ended with yet more Dears songs, a truncated combination of “Whites Only Party” and “You and I Are a Gang of Losers.”
Murray A. Lightburn has faced more daunting challenges than simultaneous bookings in the same building: a band that nearly broke up and the normal stresses of balancing a family and a career. If anything, last night’s encroaching beats were merely annoyances. In the end, Lightburn was not phased. In fact, he was grateful to have been met so lovingly by fans on his rare solo outing, grateful enough to have stuck around to chat with them after the show.
review by Leslie Chu