Music fusion is never an easy thing to pull off, even when all the pieces look like they should fall perfectly into place. At its best, you end up with a finished product where all the parts come together and make something moody and beautiful like the show this review is about and at its worst you, end up with Bluegrass/Rap, but that’s a story for another time.
The opening act, David Dondero, gave off a Guthrie/Dylan style traveler with a guitar feel as he played to the smoke filled room. His foot tapped out the rhythms as he sang wryly funny, self aware songs and even took a few requests yelled out by fans who seemed to know his entire nine album catalogue. Even though the guitar cut out a couple of times and there seemed to be a smoke machine hidden somewhere on stage that had been set to “burning plastic”, he made the best of it and came away with a fun and memorable set.
String arrangements are not a new concept in music but, in a beat driven world, having just a string quartet as your backing band is a bit of a bold move. David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet remind us that melody and subtlety of structure are just as important as the beat. Long bowed out notes hung in the air at the front of the stage with Bazan’s baritone voice sliding through on top. His lyrics are a mix of pseudo-Christian imagery and existential crisis that blended with the somber sounds of violins and cello to create a feeling of space and soul. Every few songs they would pause so he could tune his guitar and ask the audience if they had any questions. He answered as best he could; questions ranged from what his next project would be to what performers’ favourite classical composer was. His stage banter was solid bringing up the mood and making the audience laugh in between some very emotional moments.
David Bazan has a sense of balance in his live show that comes from careful thought and years of experience (this goes for the opener David Dondero too). The arrangements written and played by the Passenger string quartet provided a warm feeling that lasted long after my rainy walk home.
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Review by Tristan Johnston