Chad VanGaalen @ The Horseshoe Tavern
By: Bill Alexander
The first ever sold out CMW Thursday night the Horseshoe has ever seen. This interesting tidbit of information came straight from the Horse's (tee hee) mouth, but could easily be reduced to a stating of the obvious, as the packed-like-sardines crowd and the sweltering heat (not to mention the occasional waft of sweaty rock show odour) made it palpably clear the historic venue was indeed filled to the brim. Who in their indie right minds, really, would miss the chance to see such a buzz-worthy pseudo-superstar in such an intimate (is that someone else's sweat dripping down my neck?) space. Even before the much-hyped Chad VanGaalen made his appearance, it was clear this show was one of the biggest draws of CMW's Thursday night.
Excitement mounted as soon as the gangly VanGaalen perched his extremely tall body before the masses. In a simple t-shirt and jeans, he looked like the nice, quiet boy-next-door – more volleyball player or backstroke swimmer than singing-songwriting-animating sensation. This seemed to only add to his mystique as he warmed up his voice by humming "Silent Night" (yes, the Christmas carol) and searched for the keys to the tour van so "Matt can get his bass." In earshot I heard local troubadour Gentleman Reg describe VanGaalen to a friend as something like Neil Young with electronics, and as he broke into the so-good-it-hurts "Willow Tree" from his recent 2008 record, Soft Airplane, the comparison to Young held up.
VanGaalen treated the capacity crowd to a number of offerings from Soft Airplane, showcasing his evocative voice and soft yet magnetic stage presence. One look around proved he had his audience hooked – smirks, bobs and sing-alongs in bountiful fruition. Many looked no less than mesmerized, possessed. But it was all over almost as spontaneously as it had begun, VanGaalen's audience shocked back to reality and shuffled out into a particularly cold March night
When you're not feeling it, these Canadian Music Week showcases can go on for an eternity. When you are, they sweep you up and carry you away, but blink and it's all over, leaving you famished for more. I'd wager tonight's audience would concur with the latter.
Video: "Molten Light" by Chad VanGaalen