My anticipation in going to see Nada Surf was probably different than what others might have had in mind. Though I grew up in the nineties, I was never into the band. For whatever reason, they escaped my radar and I never heard them. A friend was excited about their latest album though, so I listened to it and really enjoyed it, enough that when the band stopped by on their tour, I wanted to see them. They played at one of my favourite Toronto venues, The Opera House. A lot of people dislike it, but it has a nice atmosphere and decent acoustics.
The opening band, An Horse, was a two-piece indie rock band with a female singer/guitarist and a male singer/drummer. We arrived a little late, and their set had already started, but we still got to see the majority of it. I didn’t know anything about the band going into it, so I didn’t know what to expect. Despite only having two members, they had a very full sound. Their stage banter felt both rehearsed and improvised, and their start-stop patterns were extremely tight and spot-on. They gave the impression that they know each other intimately well, and played off of each other with such precision, yet it sounded so natural. Their sound was very elaborate, but simplistic as well, with a lot of changes in the different parts without getting too complex. What surprised me the most was when they played a song with no drums at all in them, since when the drums make up half of the band, quite a bit of sound is lost, but the song was still carefully composed and sounded nice.
After An Horse left, and some time setting up, the five members of Nada Surf took the stage and began. Wait, five? I thought that Nada Surf was a three-piece, and it turns out that for most of their career they were, but they’ve recently added an additional guitarist, as well as a keyboard player. The keyboards were never very prominent in their sound, and they aren’t used much on the new album either, so he seemed not to contribute much at first. As the set progressed further on, though, I realized just how useful he was. By the time the set was through, he had played more instruments than almost any live musician I’ve ever seen, playing guitar, trumpet, and a birdhouse on an antenna, which I later realized was a theremin, as well as contributing backing vocals, as well as the keyboard playing. They played a good amount of new material, opening the set with the first two tracks from their new album, and throwing in an additional four tracks, which covered most of the album’s best tracks. They all had great energy about them, and despite touring for such a long time, they seemed to be really enjoying themselves, like they actually wanted to be there and weren’t just going through the motions for the money. They joked around on stage, with the drummer doing a Mick Jagger impression (and doing a pretty good job of it too) at the behest of the rest of the band. They managed to get a decent amount of audience participation, but none of it felt forced in a Motley Crue sort of way. They closed with a three-song encore, their set length just right. I was thoroughly satisfied by the end of the show. It was one of the most energetic, entertaining shows I’ve seen in quite a while. When Nada Surf comes to your town, go see them. They won’t disappoint you.