A Breathtaking Venue for an Outstanding Concert

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

  • Ohbijou played in Guelph on Saturday December 10th to a crowd of eager Guelph fans

    Ohbijou played in Guelph on Saturday December 10th to a crowd of eager Guelph fans

The Dublin Street United Church is a really wonderful concert venue. It is, as churches tend to be, a profoundly beautiful building, with a high vaulted ceiling, a massive pipe organ, and rows upon rows of wooden pews. It has been decorated for the Christmas season. The compact, tiered stage is set in the middle of the church, just in front of the altar; behind it looms the impressive pipes of the organ, set into a domed recess in the wall and flanked on either side by an enormous Christmas tree. The building is dim, the stage washed in a shifting coloured glow that stretches up and casts the dramatic shadow of the organ against the ceiling. And just above the stage there is a glowing star, hanging in mid-air. It is quite the spectacle. Churches are designed to create a sense of the infinite, and as a venue the Dublin Street United Church manages to be both little and big; intimate, while allowing for the sonic expansion at which Ohbijou and Julie Doiron excel.

A church is a particularly appropriate setting for Ohbijou and Doiron, a pair of artists who, at their best, achieve the kind of transportation that these buildings are built for. Julie Doiron, with recording partner William Kidman by her side, took the stage and delivered a raucous and joyful set to kick off the night, performing dreamy pop ballads and rollicking numbers like “Borrowed Minivans” with equal abandon. Far from appearing nervous, as at one point she professed herself to be, she owned the stage, revealing herself to be an enormously charming and self-deprecating frontwoman. Eminently energetic and endearing, she maintained a steady dialogue with the crowd throughout, and closed the show with a request.

Julie Doiron is a tough act to follow, but Ohbijou proved more than capable. After all, their speciality is the kind of huge, transcendental indie-pop that Arcade Fire fills arenas with, the kind of music that propels you into the stratosphere on a wave of strings, synths, and reverb. After taking the stage to a swell of warm synths, the drums kicked in on the slinky opening number “Sligo” from their September release Metal Meets, and Ohbijou were off. The sheer magnitude of the sound that the petite Casey Mecija and her cohorts can produce is nothing short of astounding, and when they hit their stride the only proper reaction is one of awe. From the haunted funk of a track like “Iron and Ore”, to the veritable wave of sound that is the surging “New Years,” Ohbijou are a stunning live band, with a rhythmic kick that isn’t always present on record. As “New Years” reached its climax, Mecija threw her head back and screamed and when she did, all the walls of consciousness were smashed in a rush of beautiful noise, and Ohbijou created a sense of the infinite all their own.

Check out Julie Doiron and Ohbijou. If you can, see them live. And if you can, see them in a church.

William Wellington is a student at the University of Guelph  and a volunteer at thecannon.ca


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