Is Land of Talk about to blow up? The Montreal trio might be too late to get in on the ’03-’05 Canadian Invasion, but they’ve definitely got a chance to go places, with their catchy-yet-touching sound, that works both when it goes big, and when it goes small (not to mention an engaging, alt-cute singer/songwriter/frontwoman, Elizabeth Powell).
They’re already making the jump from opener (recently for Menomena and Field Music) to headliner, and on April 5th at Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review) in New York City, Land of Talk played not only to a packed house, but also to at least five different photographers, as well as two concert staffers who were filming the whole thing.
The show in NYC was not some post-release, flash-in-the-pan kind of thing, either. While their debut EP, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, had only been released late last month in the U.S., it had been available in Canada (and on the internet) for a year and a day. Land of Talk certainly weren’t resting on it, playing new material for almost half the set, including the night’s opener and closer. While those two were strong-but-not-incredible, the band’s second and second-to-last new songs expertly balanced that fine line between rocking and affecting, living up to Powell’s description (before the second new number of the night), “This is a great song you’ve never heard before – unless you’ve heard it before.”
At only seven songs, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss wouldn’t have been enough to fill out their hour-long set anyway, even if they played every single song – which Land of Talk did (but only somewhat reluctantly – when they agreed to an audience request for Applause’s finisher, “Street Wheels”, the band freely admitted that they hadn’t performed the number in over eight months). While the show’s opening new piece began the night on a slow boil, the concert was really blown open by the following “Summer Special”, whose evocative chorus grew into its power – both emotional and sonic. The middle of the set featured strong numbers, like Applause’s one-two punch of the driving “Breaxxbaxx” and the distorted alt-country “Magnetic Hill”. While “Street Wheels” was a little rough and dragging, they followed it up with the record’s expansive, anthemistic, skull-shaking opener, “Speak To Me Bones”. And the night’s penultimate number was also Applause’s, the gripping (and clear audience favorite) “All My Friends”.
Early on in the set, bassist Chris McCarron thanked the packed crowd for all coming out, as the night prior at Maxwell’s (QRO venue review) in Hoboken, in one of their first American shows as headliner, they’d apparently played to about ten people (including the soundman and bartender). But before anyone in the Manhattan audience could yell some dig at New Jersey, Powell remarked to McCarron that one girl had come “all the way out from Philly” (there were, however, audience comments about how Philly-to-Hoboken ain’t exactly that far). But from their performance – and audience – at Mercury Lounge, Land of Talk’s days as openers and poorly drawing headliners are their past, and fans coming all the way out from Philly are their future.