Music fans missed out on killer gig

review of live show at Barrymore's, Ottawa, December 14, 1996

by Ben Rayner, Ottawa Sun, December 16, 1996

SUN RATING 4 1/2 out of 5

Not to sound preachy or anything, but shame on you, Ottawa, for not turning out in greater numbers to see the Pursuit of Happiness play Barrymore's on Saturday night.

Only about 250 people showed up to greet Moe Berg and company on their latest visit to the nation's capital -- not a terrible turnout, but a bit disappointing when you consider that a few years back TPOH could pack venues the size of Porter Hall without much effort. And doubly disappointing when you factor in what a remarkable show everybody missed.

TPOH has always been a strong live act, but Saturday's concert was a true marvel -- a fast, furious and (to use an oft-abused term) genuinely rocking couple of hours that very nearly has me convinced that it's Canada's best touring band.

Ten years together have turned the group -- frontman-guitarist Berg, guitarist Kris Abbott, bassist Brad Barker and drummer Dave Gilby, joined on stage by an extra female backup singer -- into a tight, cocky and relentlessly fun stage presence. In fact, it's too bad none of TPOH's recordings have ever done its live show justice.

From moment one -- the self-explanatory riff monster, Hate Engine -- the band came on hard and loud enough to melt human flesh, tearing through a rapid-fire set that seemed to snowball in power as the evening wore on.

The first half of the show was given over mainly to material from the band's new record, The Wonderful World Of The Pursuit Of Happiness -- material that got a much-needed juicing-up in concert, empowered by volume and velocity.

The Wonderful World was soon abandoned, though, for a brace of tunes from TPOH back catalogue, all delivered with the same full-on, hemorrhage-inducing fury. Blazing takes on old favorites like Consciousness Raising As A Social Tool, Cigarette Dangles and Hard To Laugh held up well alongside a pair of worthy newcomers -- the rollicking punk ditty Edmonton Block Heater, from the Hard Core Logo tribute album, and the metallic new single, She's The Devil, which blew out Berg's voice for the encore.

The lines "I can't take too much loud music/I mean, I like to play it, but I sure don't like the racket" (from the career-defining I'm An Adult Now) never sounded more ironic. Here's hoping TPOH is together for another 10 years.

Copyright 1996, Sun Media, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.

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