OCTOBER 30th 2015

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan

PHOTO GALLERY: http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/finger-eleven/

I think this particular show was the strangest set-up that I have ever encountered for a rock show. I have been to festivals, arenas, large space open-concept spaces and small venues.  This was the first time I encountered a white linen tabled affair when I fully expected lots of space to jump around and rock out.

The Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam was set up in a tiered manner with three levels. On all three levels were tables set for anywhere between 8 and 12 people with white linen tablecloths and red napkins. A good portion of the goers were dressed in Halloween costumes, and rightly so: it was a Halloween Howler event put on by a local radio station. The average age at the show was surprisingly higher, most attendees being around mid-30s and up. And most of them were sitting…did I miss something? I thought I was coming to a rock show?
A local band apparently opened up the night, but I missed them. Long story, but I didn’t hear a word about their performance so I clearly have nothing to say about them. I did catch act two, however, a band called Head of the Herd. Consisting of Neu Mannas (vocals and guitar), Clay Frank (guitar, harmonica, percussion), Matty Carolei (drums), Brittany Willacy (piano, organ, backing vocals), and Cory Curtis (bass, backup vocals) the band sounds like a fusion of rockabilly and new wave pop. If you mashed the lead singers of Billy Talent, Arctic Monkeys, and Awol Nation with a meat mallet you would have Mannas. Although the band played well together, their first couple of songs were not overly complicated and the lyrics were rather uninspired.  They did have two good efforts one of which had Mannas rocking hard on his guitar, slapping it up in the air while cranking out the vocals. Frank also displayed his multi-instrumental talents by hitting up the harmonica on the opener and plucking his guitar the rest of the set.

Head of the Herd did get into their recent hits which have put them on the pop/rock charts, including “Ain’t My Day” and “By This Time Tomorrow”. The renditions were good and well received by the crowd. The band has been going strong for five years, despite half their members being replaced at some point. But their closer was not a song I care to ever hear again and the lyrics were the equivalent of a vocal summersault. My four year old nephew does more gymnastics. Moving on.

After a short break, we finally got what we came for: Finger Eleven. I have been a fan of Finger Eleven since their sophomore album, “The Greyest of Blue Skies” and have seen them multiple times over the years, mostly at small venues in the Ottawa, Ontario area.  I have yet to be disappointed by a show. Scott Anderson (lead vocals), James Black (lead guitar, backing vocals), Rick Jackett (rhythm guitar), Sean Anderson (bass) and touring drummer Steve Molella (who replaced former original drummer Rich Beddoe in late 2013), ooze a love of performing and bring every effort to the stage.  As a change from a normal venue (other than the strange dinner music setup) there was no barrier between the crowd and the stage so I literally could have sandwiched myself up to the front and tugged at someone’s pant-leg (cause that would be my first thought…) Funnily enough, speaking of no barriers, a drunken female (shocker) was able to hop up on stage and saddle up to Scott Anderson before being dragged off by security. I think the band was as surprised as she was about getting up there.  But I digress…

The boys tore into their opener off the new album “Five Crooked Lines” and proceeded to bring down the house. They played six songs off their new album including “Wolves and Doors”, “Criminal”, and “Save Your breath”; with some oldie but goodies sprinkled in like “Living In A Dream”, “First Time”, “Walking In My Shoes”, and “Good Life”. Everyone was painted up to look like skeletons with the black and white a ghastly contrast to their overwhelmingly lighthearted tunes.
The band walked off for a short breather after burning through “Paralyzer”, which had the crowd chanting for more.  A neighbouring crowd member and I got into a yelling match about which song should be next…sadly neither of us won. Finger Eleven came back out to perform an acoustic rendition of “Bones and Joints”, and slowly brought the band back as they worked through “I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague” and closed with “One Thing”.  They had obviously prep’d for a sleepier crowd as after the realization set in that they were not coming back on stage to finish us all off with a heavier tune, some of us did leave with a pinch of disappointment. Whether my crowd neighbour or I won out on getting “Drag You Down” or “Carousel
(respectively) I think we both would have felt more satisfied with a harder hitting closer.

Regardless there was not a drop of energy wasted and all members performed amazingly and with the tightness that only comes with having been in the business since 1989 (even though they started out as The Rainbow Butt Monkeys). Black shone on his guitar and even when unplugged still had the grungy-graininess that you can’t help but love about his playing.  Jackett and Sean Anderson were marvels keeping the rhythm at high octane and letting Molella ride the fumes.  A telling thing about a band is how well the live performance compares to the album sound: are they better, worse, or about equal with what you hear on the radio or when you crank a download. Despite the years passing and the virility of the songs perhaps fading, Finger Eleven delivers exactly what you hear, musically and lyrically, when you hit up a live show. Lucky for us, they all have a stage presence and humility about them that makes you feel like you’re watching a garage band trapped in the body of a successful rock band.

I had the chance to chat with Black and Jackett after the show and they were so pumped to be in the area and so humbled by the kind words from fans that it’s hard to imagine how a band comes down from a high like that. Inevitably, the venue did have to close, the boys did have to hop a bus to the next show, and we all had to keep beering elsewhere.  Every one of us will take that experience away with us, however, and I for one was happy to see Finger Eleven back after a five year sleep and still loving the life.  Keep riding the carousel boys, you done did good.