So. I haven’t written a blog entry since last Sunday–quite possibly the longest gap between entries since my blog went live last September–and felt obligated to produce an “I’d better write something and quickly, or I’ll lose at least 50% of my readers, which could potentially mean that the only people reading this blog will be Bri Johnson and Fat Guts” sort of entry. Then “Superman’s Dead” started playing on iTunes, and I realized I still hadn’t resurrected that elaborate analogy I’d alluded to after Sunday night’s Our Lady Peace concert at Massey Hall. It works like this: Our Lady Peace is like your best friend from high school. Since graduation, you’ve grown up; you’ve gotten out, you’ve seen the world, you’ve met new people. He hasn’t left; he’s stayed put, kept the same group of friends, stuck to the same weekend routine. And here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that there’s a point where the two of you are just too different to be best friends the way you used to be.
This is how I feel about Our Lady Peace. I’ve changed; so have they. But we’ve both changed so much that I can’t feel the same way about them as I used to. And I used to feel very strongly about Our Lady Peace: for a long time I was convinced that they were the next big thing. Clumsy remains the album that defined my 1998, even though I spent a good portion of that year discovering Pearl Jam. Naveed, meanwhile, is still one of the great all-time Canadian rock albums; the first time I heard the title track I was convinced that Our Lady Peace was a band capable of moving mountains. They were the first band I ever travelled for (September 21, 1999 at SkyDome); their Summersault festival in 2000 enabled me to see the Smashing Pumpkins live for the only time. These sorts of seminal, defining events aren’t easy to forget–which makes it harder for me to forgive Our Lady Peace for the direction they’ve taken since Mike Turner left in late 2001.
The point, I think, is this. I’m not against bands evolving. I mean, clearly I’m not: I’m one of those people who’ll insist Pearl Jam wasn’t really any good til they released No Code. When that evolution feels organic, I’m all for it; even when I don’t necessarily appreciate the results (see: Kid A) at least I can objectively appreciate the fact that the band isn’t resting on its laurels, isn’t worried about trying something new, isn’t afraid of alienating a good portion of its fan base. When the change feels forced, I’m instantly suspicious. To me, it suggests one of two approaches: either the band felt obligated to change its sound and failed miserably, or the band made a calculated effort at changing its sound in order to broaden its appeal. Sadly, Our Lady Peace falls squarely into the latter category; if that sounds like I’m insinuating that they’ve sold out, I’d argue it’s more of a flat-out accusation.
The band, in its current inception, features Raine Maida, Duncan Coutts and Jeremy Taggart–holdovers from the glory days–playing alongside Steve Mazur, who clearly hasn’t met a drop-D tuning he doesn’t love, and an anonymous stunt musician. At times, it felt like I wasn’t watching the actual band so much as a cover band with freakishly identical membership. And, I mean, objectively it wasn’t that bad of a show. For all their sins, Our Lady Peace skill knows how to rock a venue good and proper–even if Raine Maida is humourless to the point I felt obligated to utter the words “fucking rock star” way more than I did while in the presence of Him in September. The audience, meanwhile, was eating it up; clearly, Jamie and I were the only two people in attendance who hadn’t yet purchased Healthy in Paranoid Times. For me, it was a profoundly alienating experience–like being in the crowd for a cricket match and wondering what the hell people are going on about.
In the end, I don’t think I could say I really enjoyed myself. On one level, I was able to dissociate my feelings for Our Lady Peace with what I was seeing–and yes, there were times when I was genuiniely excited by what I was witnessing. Mostly, however, I spent the concert feeling pangs of nostalgia and longing for the good ol’ days. In that sense, the concert was like your semi-annual meeting with your high school friend: even though you’d get the occasional sense of “yeah, we’re back,” you intuitively know that things will never be the same. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing that Our Lady Peace has changed. But your relationships with your favourite bands are inherently subjective–and for that reason I cannot dissociate the latter day Our Lady Peace from the band that changed my life back in 1998. Which made what I saw on Sunday that much more difficult to truly enjoy.
Anyway: for posterity, and with deference to Rich and Shelley, here’s the setlist.
set: Picture, Starseed, Innocent, Angels/Losing/Sleep, Clumsy, Wipe That Smile Off Your Face, In Repair, Car Crash, Where Are You, Is Anybody Home?, Al Genina–>Waited, Walking in Circles, Thief, Boy, Will the Future Blame Us, Superman’s Dead
encore: 4am, The World on a String, Apology, Somewhere Out There, Naveed