John K. Samson- Winter Wheat Album Release Show, Nov. 4, 2016
Album release shows, some people love them, while some don't. It comes down to what level of fan you are of the performer or band. If you're a die hard fan that is familiar with all their music and attends concerts most times the band is in town, you should be dying to hear the latest songs from the just released album. You might not have even heard any of the new songs yet and this may be your first listen to the new record, but you are excited about being one of the first to hear it live. To be honest, there will be some songs, the deeper cuts, that might not be played often after the initial new release shows, so that in itself is kind of special.
There are also the fans that aren't excited by the prospect of hearing a large percentage of the show dedicated to the new stuff. These fans love the band, but they want to hear something they are already familiar with, no surprises. In John K. Samson's case, they still want to hear all the Weakerthan's "hits" and will tolerate his solo material because they have no choice. This might sound narrow-minded, but there are a lot of fans that fall in that category. The new songs to them is the time to update their friends beside them or on their phone about what's new and not so new about their self-centred lives. Chatter usually increases and I jokingly refer to this time as the bathroom break or refresh your drink time. All kidding aside, I love album releases. I feel this privilege of hearing something no one else has heard yet live. Since John's hometown is Winnipeg, we are very lucky to have this privilege.
Full disclosure, I downloaded the album right when it was released and had a chance to listen to the album before the concert on November 4th. My first impression was that the album is mellower than my liking, but after repeated listening and seeing eight of these songs performed live, it really has grown on me. The set John K and his band, The Winter Wheat gave us was split almost evenly between Weakerthans and post-Weakerthans solo material. The new stuff works well live especially songs like, Postdoc Blues and the Neil Young/Crazy Horse inspired, Vampire Alberta Blues. Considering there were 3 of 4 members of the Weakerthans on stage, the Weakerthans songs sounded refreshed and bright and with the addition of John's wife, Christine Fellows (who opened the show) on keyboard and backing vocals and Ashley Au on double and electric bass and guitar, the sound was full and satisfying. The Neil Young vibe was still in the air during the first encore when the band performed a cover of Neil Young's, Don't Be Denied. The reference to Winnipeg in the song are unavoidable and I always felt a secret Winnipeg joy whenever I heard the song. I remember when the Constantines played that song as their encore when they opened for the Weakerthans at the now deceased, Rendez-Vous back in the mid 2000's. They wrote the lyrics on a pizza box and propped it against the monitor in front of them. A classic Winnipeg moment!
If you've been to the West End Cultural Centre recently, you know they have a upper mezzanine balcony type seating area. I decided I wasn't looking forward to several hours of standing surrounded by young folks all taller than I am. The upper seating area is only 2 rows deep and offers an unimpeded view of the full stage and band. No more trying to peak around some swaying drunken talking idiot (that Winnipeg is full of!). The sound was incredible and it was as comfortable as hell. I taped my microphone to the rail and sat almost centre directly above the soundboard. The live recording is amazing, being up above the crowd, the sound is crisp and balanced and you can actually hear all the lyrics and instruments clearly. There was almost no crowd chatter and this may possibly be the best sounding live recording I have ever recorded! A must hear for anyone that's a fan of John K. Samson, the Weakerthans and Winnipeg.
DO NOT sell or share in lossy formats (mp3)!
01. Select All Delete
02. Sun In An Empty Room
03. Postdoc Blues
04. Reconstruction Site
05. Plea From A Cat Named Virtute
06. Cruise Night
07. When I Write My Master's Thesis
08. Vampire Alberta Blues
09. One Great City!
10. (Hospital Vespers)
11. 17th Street Treatment Centre
14. Alpha Adept
16. Winter Wheat
17. Confessions Of Futon-Revolutionist
18. Left And Leaving
19. Don't Be Denied
20. Virtute At Rest