Hurrying into the dimly lit venue, I yanked my gloves off and prepared my wrist for the stamp of the week – tonight Cate Le Bon was playing at Bar Le Ritz. Stamped and ready to go, I squeezed through slivers of space amongst the crowd and made my way to the middle of the venue. Tim Presley’s set was over, and murmurs engulfed the room. However, once the back door began to creak open, a hush fell over the audience. Within seconds, Le Bon and her band, clad in black, appeared and swiftly made their way to the center of the stage. Le Bon then leaned into the mic and announced that Tim Presley would be joining them on drums. The original drummer was, unfortunately, unable to perform due to immigration issues. Nonetheless, with that, Presley, garbed and face-painted in bright white, made his way to the drums. Though divergent in terms of dress, Le Bon and her band, including Presley, were determined to beguile the crowd.
Amongst the variety of songs played throughout the night, the tracks off of Crab Day (Le Bon’s most recent LP) could be identified by their shrill twang harkening back to late ‘60s rock. Opening with “Crab Day,” the band shattered the silenced room with an electrifying guitar intro. A voltaic beat was set free, and the crowd succumbed immediately. Other Crab Day gems followed: with “Wonderful,” Le Bon and her band fused a distinct Kinks influence with the eccentricity of Roxy Music. This bizarre concoction left the crowd both enthralled and energized. With “Love Is Not Love,” the emphasis switched from instrumental to vocals. Le Bon’s sweet yet haunting voice seeped to every corner of the room, charming listeners on its way.
If the tracks off of Crab Day were bound by hints of the Kinks, then the tracks off of Rock Pool (Le Bon’s most recent EP) are welded by elements of the Velvet Underground and Nico. “Aside From Growing Old,” arguably my favorite track of the night, paired melancholic lyrics with an energized tune. At first, Le Bon’s soft and somewhat ghostly vocals, bearing traces of Nico, gently beckoned the audience; however, within moments, the tender melody shed its skin and unleashed Le Bon howling the ever-so relatable lines “What’s the problem, I’m losing my mind.” Moreover, with “I Just Wanna Be Good,” Le Bon’s heartfelt lyrics were at their peak. As the show progressed it became clear to me that the crux of Le Bon’s vocal allure is rooted in the genuine sentiment that comes through when she sings.
Nevertheless, the show’s inevitable end was fast approaching. Le Bon’s farewell – a soft-spoken “merci beaucoup” – was met by the howls of a happy crowd. Through her wistful and zany ways, Le Bon captivated her audience and once again, Bar Le Ritz hosted a lovely refuge from a numbing Montreal winter’s night.
– Review by Soraya Mamiche Afara