Chicago’s own, Canasta celebrated the release of their sophomore album, The Fakeout, The Tease And The Breather, with two shows at Schubas on Saturday night. With a horn section joining the sextet on stage for several of the songs, the last song of the set sums up the experience of the early show; the sexy, soulful groove of “Reading The Map Upside Down”. At the end of the funk-laced number, front man, Matt Priest’s awestruck expression and uttered “wow” matched the vibe of the crowd. He joked, “We may never play another show after tonight”, expressing just how hard it would be to top the version of the song with horns in tow. If you missed the Saturday night shows, you definitely missed out on a special experience.
The night kicked off with the first four tracks from the band’s excellent new release, which was a gutsy move given the slow-burning build-up of, seven-minute epic, “Becoming You” that opens the album. The gorgeous melody that seeps into your skin in the song came through great live, as did the excellent violin work of Elizabeth Lindau. The band’s ability to pull off the rich, layered sounds on stage made the horns that would show up later in the set feel like the cherry on top; a delicious garnish, but essential to their sonic charms. The gradual climb to eruption on the song led well into the party that broke out on stage for the triumphant “Mexico City”. The shout-a-long hook and fantastic violin solo ensure that it will quickly join “Slow Down Chicago” and “Microphone Song” as a fan favorite, providing them with an early ‘holy shit’ moment.
While bands can easily falter pulling off a note-for-note recreation of the album on-stage, by not giving fans anything unexpected, Canasta’s lush sounds and added oomph songs receive live keep everything feeling fresh and vibrant. When a band can hold a room’s attention for quieter songs they may have not yet heard, like velvety bliss of “I Don’t Know Where I Was Going With This”, you know they have the goods. Explaining that they would not repeat much of the older material in the late show, getting both the jazzy, religious-themed “Shadowcat” and upbeat duet “Sympathetic Vibrations” was a pleasant surprise. It was hard not to hope that the late show also got both of the other two fan favorites, though. The organ-led melody and anthem-ready hook of “Slow Down Chicago” make it feel like it should be the city’s official song, and you should be able to request a refund if you do not hear the addictively jittery “Microphone Song”.
“Magazine (Songwriter On A Train)” served as a reminder of why you were at the show to begin with, pulling together everything the band does so well. The dance of the piano and guitar, the occasional violin flutter, the ticking beat and the great hook made for a snapshot of a band in the zone. The dusty, spaghetti-western tone of “Appreciation”, complete with horns ablaze, was followed by Priest’s well-deserved props to the sound board operator, Fabrese, who he claimed was responsible for 80% of the excellent sound. Regardless of who was responsible, it was impossible not to be impressed by the dynamic range and versatility of the band’s sound. The clever lyrical split of father/mother vocals between Priest and Lindau worked great on the upbeat, custody battle inspired, “Chosing Sides”, and they were able to hold the room’s attention just as intently for the quiet bad-timing ballad “Shortcut”.
Their urgent retelling of “Major Tom (Coming Home)” felt all their own, though the straightforward cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” was hard to resist. The deep funk bass groove and the inclusion of the Dr. Dre rap to kick it off were surprising treats. The band announced a handful of summer shows, and you would be insane not to seek them out at one of them. After you do, good luck resisting the temptation to cancel all other plans any other days they are playing.
Mountains Of Molehills
I Don’t Know Where I Was Going With This
Magazine (Songwriter On A Train)
Slow Down Chicago
Major Tom (Coming Home)
Reading The Map Upside Down