JANUARY 27th 2017

Review by Lana Muirhead
Gallery by Peter Ruttan: http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/big-wreck-with-ascot-royals/

I can’t deny I had to drag my ass to Big Wreck on this Friday night.  Not because I was dreading the show but because I’d had virtually zero sleep over the last two days, had to be up at 4:30 am, and because the band had just been in town in July of 2016.  To my surprise, the Commodore was PACKED despite their recent visit, and well past my bedtime I was re-energized by the music.

Openers Ascot Royals were, for me, like Canada’s answer to the X-Ambassadors.  Ascot Royals have that rock’n’roll heart diluted by a pop/folk rock inclination.  Their set was energetic and upbeat and (mostly) Brantford, Ontario natives Jimmy Chauveau (vocals), Tal Vaisman (guitar), Ben Chauveau (keyboards), Scott Page (bass), and Sam Stark (drums) seemed to sell the crowd their brand: that being a positive, passionate outlook on life and the pursuit of your dreams. Yes, I just wrote that on a metal website.  Although I didn’t catch the whole set, the support was palpable and I’m guessing they’ll be on a crappy rock station near you soon enough.

As for Big Wreck…two words: wet panties.  These guys brought a whole different show in just over six months from their last run through Vancouver.  The city was one of the first on their multi-month tour promoting the latest album, Grace Street (available for purchase, all!)  Like a fine wine or an expensive cheese, Ian Thornley (frontman and lead guitarist) just gets better with age.

Perfectly complimented by Brian Doherty (guitar), Dave McMillan (bass), and drummer Chuck D Keeping, Big Wreck launched into their first single off the new release, “One Good Piece Of Me”.  If the crowd wasn’t impressed by the tune, they would have no choice but to be impressed by Doherty’s handling of one of two double necked guitars on stage throughout the night; this one with a twelve-string upper neck. They continued with a set that included more than half of their new materials, the most impressive of which was undoubtedly the rendition of “Skybunk Marché”. The longest offering on their album, “Skybunk” performed live was breathtaking.  For part of it Thornley stood on stage solo and just tore into his one of many guitars, changing grip and playing style all in mere seconds. He was then joined on stage by the rest of the band, who, though they take their cues from Thornley, are such instinctual players that you know they don’t come close to needing the guidance.

For nostalgia (and to prevent a riot), the guys dabbled in their back-catalogue with “Wolves”, “Albatross”, and “Blown Wide Open”.  Where Thornley first seemed to really come alive was when the crowd roared during the opening beats of “That Song”. One that cannot be skipped in a Big Wreck set (though “Ladykiller” was! ) Thornley got to moving, grooving, and gyrating as the familiar chords rang out.

Unfortunately, there ended up being some technical difficulties during the performance, but there was hardly a stressful glisten on the collective Big Wreck brow. Pure professionalism kicked in when prior to starting “Hey Mama” Thornley tossed his inner-ear monitor and invited the crowd to “make fun of me for being tone-deaf” and to “savour the flavour” of going bareback (aka artist speak for being essentially deaf during a performance). Not surprising, despite the ghosts in the machines, the presentation was flawless and Big Wreck not only reminded Vancouverites of their dominance in the Canadian rock scene, but asserted their ownership of it.  Everything was strategic and every moment where Thornley borrows the spotlight (he is Canadian after all and will share it) there is a purpose – and that is to sonically shape and guide a track and not simply to ‘show off’ his stellar shredding skills. The band fits together like a metalhead and a black T, and will surely re-establish themselves on the charts with their latest studio release.

If you’re Canadian and haven’t seen Big Wreck, I officially strip you of your maple leaf and pull your sorry card because until you do: you do not belong here. I Trump you.