CHAD VANGAALEN with DUSTED and COUSINS at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, Thursday, July 26. Rating: NNNN
Chad VanGaalen embraces a sort of laid-back chaos that sometimes causes his performances to meander or lose the plot.
Other times, like at his jam-packed Virgin Mobile Mod Club show, the messy bits kept things human, hilarious and unexpected.
Near the top of the set, for example, the Calgary noise-folk musician's three-piece band launched into Eat It for no apparent reason. VanGaalen entered late, and in a different key, but he went with it, taking the Weird Al/Michael Jackson song in a visceral, punk rock direction by screaming through a distorted mic.
But he does tender and melodic (that stirring falsetto!) just as well as weird and guitar-squealy, and it's that unique back and forth that's made him so influential to other musicians and beloved by his fans.
The set was heavy on Diaper Island tunes - ballad Sara and frantic Freedom For A Policeman were standouts - though during the encore, a solo rendition of the emotional Willow Tree from 2008's Soft Airplane really socked us in the gut.
You'd think Dusted's focal point would be frontman Brian Borcherdt, who does lend a striking figure along with his introspective songwriting. But it's Leon Taheny - on drums, synths and electronics - whose multi-tasking abilities leave you dumbfounded.
Cousins, meanwhile, got the early crowd onside. Singer/guitarist Aaron Mangle, in his trademark ball cap, doesn't say much between songs, but he and drummer Leigh Dotey delivered their raucous, melodic rock with tons of verve. By the end of the night, many of the people streaming out of the club had Cousins' vinyl in hand.