JULY TALK w/ CROWN LANDS
@ MASSEY HALL, TORONTO
MARCH 10, 2023
Two of Canada’s most promising bands to emerge in the last decade took one of Toronto’s most revered stages for a pair of back-to-back, sold out performances. Having just released their fourth studio album, Remember Never Before, July Talk continues to shape alternative rock with a refined sound and a newly expanded and experimental lineup, while ‘70s inspired rock duo Crown Lands continue to launch their career into uncharted territory with each passing year, and their upcoming album, Fearless, dropping on March 31, is a testament to this. With a headliner more influenced by The White Stripes and Queens Of The Stone Age, and a supporting act with a sound that rests between Rush and Led Zeppelin, a July Talk and Crown Lands bill at Massey Hall seems like a strange matchup, yet it made perfect sense if you were there.
Walking on stage to an array of synths, guitarist Kevin Comeau and drummer and singer Cody Bowles walked onto stage, opening the show with “Starlifter: Fearless Pt. II”, an 18-mins single released earlier this year. Given its length and set time constraints, I assumed the band would have performed pieces of the song, as even the incomplete parts of “Fearless” feel like full songs; however, I was pleasantly surprised to watch Crown Lands take on the whole song, shifting through its moving passages and rhythmic transitions with ease. Bowles drums powerfully, and with vocals that yearn like Jeff Buckley, but with the charm of Robert Plant, is a natural behind and in front of the kit, while Comeau, often holding a double-necked guitar, one necked, sometimes a bass, while at others times, a twelve-string, seamlessly plays the role of a dedicated rhythm player and a soaring lead guitarist, while flanked by a wall of amps and a pair of synths, one he plays with his feet to fill in for the bass. Having seen Crown Lands live for years now, it never ceases to amaze me to watch these two musicians create a sound greater than most four-piece outfits can muster. Highlights from their set included the newly released, fan favourite of a single, “Lady Of The Lake”, “End Of The Road”, and “White Buffalo”.
To watch July Talk is to witness controlled chaos performed masterfully. The recently expanded sextet, now including a percussionist and an additional guitarist, took the stage to deliver a set that only they could. I don’t think anyone else could employ such an uninhibited, chaotic energy without it feeling contrived, and yet, it only felt natural for July Talk. Opening with the cinematically intense “After This”, the band was in truly fine form. Refreshingly, they performed seven of the 11 tracks on Remember Never Before, released in January, demonstrating a well-deserved sense of confidence in their new material. Songs like “I Am Water”, “Certain Father”, “Human Side”, and “G-d Mother Fire” stood alongside classic songs like “Picturing Love”, “Guns + Ammunition”, “Summer Dress”, and the quintessential “Push + Pull”. Aside from the very tight performance from the band – special shoutout to the unflinching groove machine Danny Miles – the contrasting nature between the pair of lead vocalists, Peter Dreimanis – the gravelly voiced guitarist who struts with a possessed sense of flow – and Leah Fay who plays off Dreimanis’ energy with emancipated elegance. The chemistry between these two is undeniable and rests at the heart of what makes July Talk unique.
For years I never quite got July Talk, however, seeing them live changed this nearly instantly. Within the opening notes of “After This”, I was hooked. By the end of the night, having thoroughly enjoyed myself, I couldn’t get enough. With the addition of Crown Lands on the bill, the Remember Never Before tour is a true display of some of the greatest up and coming talent Canada has to offer.