ROYAL CITY with ARAB STRAP at Lee's Palace, April 13. Tickets: $11. Attendance: 500 (sold out). Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
royal city were probably three songs into their set Friday when it dawned on singer/guitarist Aaron Riches that his band would go unheard by roughly half the crowd gathered at Lee's Palace for Arab Strap.
The fragile, hushed pop artfully created by the Guelph-based foursome is lovely, provocative and absolutely defenceless against a roar of chatter. Almost from the moment Royal City assembled onstage, it was obvious that only those crammed on the dance floor had a snowball's chance of hearing anything at all. What did cut through was coated in a film of annoying background noise.
Pity, since Royal City -- Riches, guitarist Jim Guthrie, bassist Simon Osborne and drummer Nathan Lawr -- make dreamy, minimalist songs that in a more conducive setting make you strain to hear what Riches is discovering as he pokes around in dark corners.
That pensive quality is no doubt why they were chosen as support for the headlining Glaswegian sad sacks. Fans of Arab Strap would surely dig the gauzy, slo-core shimmer of songs from Royal City's At The Rush Hour The Cars disc if only they had heard them.
Still, points to Riches, Guthrie and the rest for persevering. Players that good deserve better than a well-oiled mob blabbing one another's ears purple about the dreaded Leafs and the cultural significance of Gone With The Wind, which flickered on the TV behind the bar as Royal City struggled on.