It's a humid Saturday night in downtown Vancouver and hundreds are packed in the Commodore Ballroom awaiting the onstage arrival of UK electronica outfit, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker -- otherwise known collectively as Zero 7. Opening act José González, vocalist on multiple tracks off Zero 7's current and third album "The Garden", treats us to his acoustic prowess and sombre singing style.
At around 11pm, Zero 7 start to trickle onto the stage. Tonight they are an eight-piece ensemble comprised of themselves, drummer Tom Skinner, bassist Robin Mullarkey, guitarist Dedi Madden, as well as keyboardist Eddie Stevens and rotating vocalists -- Zero 7 favourite, Sia Furler and the aforementioned José González.
An atmospheric spacey intro leads into "You're My Flame", a catchy bass drum-induced and harpsichord-tingled track that is made sexy by Sia's low-key vocals and Ashlee Simpson-esque SNL hoedowns between verses (in a good way!). "Throw It All Away" is next on deck and is accented by a rather odd use of a kazoo whistle, which actually complements the live vibe rather well.
After the B-side "Dreaming" and "This Fine Social Scene", José González returns for "Today", as Sia departs into the background pouring drinks for the rest of the band and continuing to dance like a pixie with no inhibitions. Near the end of the track, the guitar chords suddenly fuse into the beat from the Pharcyde classic, "Runnin'", which sends the crowd into a frenzy.
"Left Behind" is followed and gives the band members a break as Jose gives a stripped-down solo performance. With the band now re-energized with a shot of Lady Luck, we are treated to one of the highlights of the night -- an extended, psychedelic version of "Crosses" -- that featured a multitude of percussive instruments from shakers to clavés, as well as some live, on-the-fly vocal distortions courtesy of Henry Binns.
Sia returns to the mic and we are taken back on a nostalgic tour to Zero 7's first album -- a medley containing different versions of "Distractions" and an almost, indistinguishable "Give It Away" followed by crowd-favourite "Destiny". Coming back from the detour, we are brought back to "The Garden" with "The Pageant of The Bizarre" and trippy, instrumental cut, "Seeing Things" -- another standout showcasing Zero 7's eclectic sensibilities and more electronic manipulation using Eddie Stevens' primal vocals.
Jose makes one more return for the sublime "Futures" to end the set... or so we think! After multiple chants for an encore, we are treated to a fantastic version of "End Theme" that I've only heard about from other live reviews and an acoustic version of "Somersault" to end the 90 minute show.
There is always the connotation that electronica acts do not translate well when it comes to the live experience, however Zero 7 turns that perception on its head. Time simply went too fast at the Commodore that night; the crowd and I were left wanting more. We wanted to stay in "The Garden" and take our time to smell the roses. Nonetheless, the scent from those roses will linger in my subconscious memory for many months to come.
* All photos taken by MVRemix Media. Not to be reproduced without consent.