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Capital Cities Concert Review, Venue Live, Vancouver BC May 28, 2013
May 29th, 2013 | Published in Feature

The Los Angeles-based modern rock outfit known as Capital Cities is currently touring North America to promote their new EP On A Tidal Wave of Mystery, drop date of June 4, 2013. A month into the tour, they stormed the stage of Vancouver’s Venue Live last night, May 28. It was a night to remember, for hands down Capital Cities is one of the best live acts on the music scene today, regardless of genre. The group, founded and fronted by Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian back in 2010, is poised for a major breakthrough, not just in America but around the world.

You may have seen their ubiquitous video for their infectious hit “Safe and Sound”. Slammin’, calculated, and filled with more hooks than you’ll find in a Tiffany jewelry store, this vid barely begins to do justice to what the Vancouver audience was privileged to see and hear in a full live performance. The bearded one (Beardo, aka Sebu) and the tall cool one (Handsome, aka Ryan) take on synths and vocals, and are supported, nay, equalled by a fine trumpet player, Spencer Ludwig, and a couple of fretboard wizards on guitar and bass. The group has decided to forego a drummer in favour of the considerable bottom end provided by synth and bass.

As for their material, Capital Cities put forth an astonishing repertoire, opening with a kicked-up version of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” that completely deconstructed the tune, re-assembled it in a manner that echoed the original but also brought an electro-funkified, dazzling, and highly exciting start to a very fine concert. The soulful, piercing trumpet work was more than texture; it was in many of their set pieces a frequent lead instrument. They put forth a cohesive modern rock sound that is distinctive for the sheer joy of their playing and the magnetism of their polished live electro manoeuvres on the stage. They claim Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Pink Floyd as influences, and the mix of of those elements is unexpected, nuanced and highly successful, both in performance and the studio.

Said Merchant, the Handsome, recently:

We’re here to entertain people. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We want to give off a vibe of enjoyment and fun. When they see us on, they know we’re here to have fun.”

This group could survive handily as a cover band. Their reinventions of the Prince classic “Nothing Compares 2 U” and the Madonna standard “Holiday” proved the originals to be hardly more than worthy demos. Capital Cities moved the Prince number from the mournful regret sung by Prince (as well as Sinead O’Connor) to a whole new interpretation that said: “knew this was too good to be true, but we deserve to get it back”. It displayed an up-tempo conviction that had the audience fully on board and singing along with a new beat they’d never heard before. Pretty much the same for the Madonna number – under the command of Beardo and Handsome, this tune rocked, throbbed and electrified the audience. Their performance of the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” was fine, too, but it’s probably one they should omit in future performances. No one’s ever gonna match the harmonies of the Gibb brothers or the strength of that original 70s recording. Kudos to these guys for the attempt though; they’re nothing if not daring in their choice of covers.

Their original material is very strong, particularly the crowd-pleaser “I Sold My Bed But Not My Stereo”, which Handsome announced as “a little ode to the power of music”. It’s a raucous rocking rouser of a tune that deserves to be not just a hit, but a summer monster.

And as for their hit “Safe and Sound”, well, it provided the occasion for a spectacular close to a very well-paced show. Just when you thought the show was about to close, the band members jumped into the dancing crowd and displayed their considerable dance moves, then got back on stage and completely blew the doors off with a knockout over the top finish.

How long have these guys been together? – it doesn’t matter. Capital Cities is the real deal and you’ll be hearing and seeing a whole lot more of them in the near future.

Concert Dates:
5/29 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
5/31 Sacramento, CA Ace of Spades
6/1 Santa Barbara, CA SOHo Restaurant & Music Club
6/5 Anaheim, CA House of Blues
6/6 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre SOLD OUT
6/7 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre SOLD OUT

Additional Dates
4/27 Frisco, TX FC Dallas Stadium/Edgefest
5/4 Washington, DC RFK Stadium-Lot 9/ DC 101 Chili Cook Off
5/26 Quincy, WA The Gorge Amphitheatre/Sasquatch! Music Festival SOLD OUT
6/23 Dover, DE Dover International Speedway/Firefly Music Festival
8/2 Montreal, QC Parc Jean-Drapeau/Osheaga Music Festival
8/9 Squamish, BC Loggers Sports Grounds/Squamish Music Festival