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SONNY AND THE SUNSETS and MAGIC TRICK at the Silver Dollar, Saturday, August 11. Rating: NNNN
It initially appeared that the Silver Dollar had cleared out before San Francisco's Sonny and the Sunsets took the stage, which had frontman and guitarist Sonny Smith joking that, "sometimes you need a little privacy to express your deepest emotions."
But it was just a trick of the room. As Smith and co. stretched and continued to joke around (about how they really are Olympic athletes moonlighting as musicians), then launched into their set in earnest, the audience drew closer.
The band's new breakup-inspired album, Longtime Companion, is a quieter, more country-tinged affair than what fans are used to, and as the Sunsets performed the new songs people whispered to each other about how awesome last year's Hit After Hit was in anticipation.
If the set structure seemed a bit haphazard - jumping back and forth between up-beat numbers and mellower ones, with a psychedelic spoken word transition thrown in to make things weirder - the playing was spot on, with three guitars, bass and drums ringing out together beautifully, and Tahlia Harbour providing rich backup to Smith's slightly nasal delivery.
Smith plays like he's discovering strange new expressions of his guitar, and the set, which started off a bit shaky, ended in a glorious dance party.
Hawaiian-shirted fellow San Franciscans Tim Cohen (Fresh & Onlys) and his new band Magic Trick opened up with a dreamy yet grounded, warm and sunny take on folky garage noir - their first Canadian appearance.