Review Summary: When an artist’s music translates well to a live format, it’s impressive. When the music is so spectacular that this "live" aspect hardly matters due to the music itself being so overwhelmingly superb, we call that phenomenon The Weakerthans.
“Reconstruction Site” is pretty damn close to being one of my favorite songs of all-time. The intricate, witty lyrics, the personal and interesting story lines; they have all become commonplace for fans of The Weakerthans that rejoice in John Samson’s homeyness. It all erupts in an endearing volcano of a song that spews volatile line after line of lovability. While “Reconstruction Site” in particular holds more than a little personal meaning, the same said adjectives can be applied to a hefty portion of The Weakerthans’ deep repertoire. As the brainchild of former Propagandhi bassist John Samson, The Weakerthans have always managed to throw the sharp lyricism of punk music into a blender with romantic, folky tunes to complement that sound more genuine and candid than just about any other band. A bit of an exaggeration, maybe, but it’s unbelievably difficult not to be affected by the twangs and one-liners that Samson cooks up with ease and delivers promptly.
To be blunt, the track listing for Live At Burton Cumming’s Theatre
couldn’t possibly be better. With such a vast array of songs that would be fitting for a live DVD, one would assume that some would be left out. Only four albums in, and The Weakerthans already have more than enough solid material to fill an 18-track live DVD. Each respective album is well-represented. The biographical gist of Reconstruction Site
, the more energetic side of Left and Leaving
, and the slower drawl of Reunion Tour
are all present and balanced to form a spectacular hybrid of sorts. A very self-aware attitude obviously formed the superb track listing, as The Weakerthans’ impressive is given its’ due. While fans may remain somewhat divided on what constitutes The Weakerthans’ opus, the band clearly hit the nail on the head when including the best of four worlds on Live At Burton Cumming’s Theatre.
However, while the track listing is certainly enticing, the real treat lies with The Weakerthans’ performance. The sense of flow on Live At Burton Cummings Theatre
is difficult to achieve and even more difficult to deny, reminiscent of a well-seasoned band, masters of their domain. Placing a few lively fan-favorites near the beginning like “Night Windows” and “Tournament of Hearts” (from Reunion Tour
), certainly pays off, as it becomes easy to see the crowd getting more comfortable with the band from Winnipeg. With that said, Samson himself isnʼt the most lively of performers, as exemplified by his uncomfortable response to a moment after the beautiful “Aside”, when he begins to take off his button-up in favor of a tee, drawing unce-unce-unceʼs
from the back of the crowd. It’s obvious he would much rather get back to playing the catchy, Canada tunes he’s known for and with the opening strums of “Civil Twilight” directly afterwards, Samson gets his wish.
Safe to say, the audience/artist interaction isn’t the real treasure (words only happen to be Samson’s strong point when he’s singing), but rather the intimate display is. Combined with the insightful lyrics, the intimate setting in which the band thrives is an absolute gem. The Weakerthans’ tales (specifically, ones told from the perspective of Samson’s insightful cat) and heartfelt stories only add to the subtle yet powerful atmosphere that Samson thrives on. The Weakerthan’s fail to miss a note throughout, and the effects shouldn’t go unnoticed as Samson’s words gain a breath of new life. The quality of Live At Cumming’s Burton Theatre
extends beyond The Weakerthan’s playing each song note-for-note, it ends up as a culmination of a discography that’s difficult to rival in today’s music.