Anniversary tours – you either love them or hate them.
It probably depends on what anniversary is being celebrated of course, but there’s a feeling among some that these tours are a little bit sad.
When Clap Your Hands Say Yeah marked the 10th anniversary of their astonishing, self-titled debut album in 2015, I was fortunate enough to see them perform that record in full in Toronto.
And when they announced a similar tour to mark 10 years since the release of Some Loud Thunder – hands down one of my favourite albums of all time, by any band – I damn near shat the bed.
Excited isn’t the word. But I was also a little confused. You see, the debut was a huge success, while Some Loud Thunder marked the beginning of CYHSY’s slide from new indie darlings to where they are today – which is a world apart, playing to a handful of people in tiny venues.
A lot of bands might have given up after falling from the limelight like that. But not Alec Ounsworth – a man who just keeps making great records, even if only us loyal few pay attention.
A huge fan of CYHSY, I am never comfortable criticising Ounsworth’s work. However, he has routinely performed a rather weak electronic version of Some Loud Thunder’s title track for years, and I was gutted that the band did the same tonight. I’d hoped it would be performed more like the bouncy, lively and quite brilliant album version.
While I was mildly frustrated, most in the room were just confused. I’m confident less than 10 or so of us even recognised the song, which isn’t a great start. And that has become a bit of a theme for CYHSY gigs in recent years – they take a while to get going.
The Caves is a stunning venue and it’s hard to imagine any more suited to CYHSY’s vibe. Yet, it is slow to react to Ounsworth and his band. The frontman even references his habit of changing the songs from Some Loud Thunder, but the joke falls flat as the crowd are by this stage already wondering when they’ll hear something they know.
Enter the album’s best-known track, the fantastic Satan Said Dance. It’s played much like the album version and it sounds exceptional, dramatic and fucking perfect. Now the crowd are onside and the band are revelling in it.
Ounsworth performs a solo acoustic version of one of the record’s best songs, Underwater, and it’s an occasion where the meddling works beautifully. A friend I took with me knew little of the album, yet turned to me and expressed his admiration for the track.
The encore, of course, features all the first album hits and Ounsworth is in fine form, chatting to the crowd and even sweetly handling an infatuated heckler.
Ketamine and Ecstasy, from third album Hysterical, shakes this ancient building to its core and is arguably the highlight of the set.
CYHSY can do no wrong in my eyes, but I have to question Ounsworth’s decision making process when it comes to how he presents some of his material. Still, I love the gig. I’m just not sure CYHSY make the impact that their songs really should.