The one thing you hope and pray for if you’re throwing a show on a Sunday night in the middle of spring is that it doesn’t rain. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened when Against the Current with Chapel popped by Montreal’s L’Astral as part of their Past Lives tour.
The room was roughly half-full when the two-body powerhouse that is Chapel took the stage. That didn’t stop them from putting on what was, for all intents and purposes, a show-stopping performance. Frontman Carter Hardin rocketed back and forth across the stage as he belted high notes and harmonized with pre-recorded samples of himself while drummer Kortney Grinwis provided dizzying percussion lines that could have easily taken three members to create in a lesser band. She also did that hip hop airhorn thing over what was otherwise pop emo barely influenced by hip hop, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
In between songs, Hardin kept it loose with funny non-sequitur comments like getting the crowd to make some noise for Hardin and his MacBook pro, and teaching math. These guys are definitely one of the best live pop acts I’ve seen in a long time and wholly worth checking out, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The crowd did not grow in the time between sets, and if anything, it had shrunk by the time New York’s Against the Current took the stage. There was a smattering of hardcore fans who were doing their best to rock out and scream along to every word frontwoman Chrissy Costanza belted out, but for the most part, the whole affair was pretty tame. Costanza did an admirable job trying to hype the crowd up, reminding them that it had been two years since the band had last made their way to our fair city, and exclaiming how much nicer Canadians are than anyone she’s used to dealing with back home. (Side note: is it ok to mention that she’s the smallest front person ever since, like, Ronnie James Dio?)
The house sound was not entirely on their side, either. For what amounts to a four-chord pop band that relies heavily on samples, there were a lot of musicians on stage that maybe didn’t need to be there. And because Costanza’s diction is not the best, many of her lyrics were buried under uneven guitar mixes and sample lines. Still, when she belted, she belted, and those moments were met with vigorous applause and cheers. One particularly cute moment came when she approached a young crowd member who it turned out was only 7 years old and, by chance, a French speaker. Her conversation with the young lady, presumably translated by the little girl’s father, was heartwarming.
The show’s highest points both came from tracks off the new album. The first was “Strangers Again,” the opening song which featured ghostly backing vocals (again, sampled. What was with all the other musicians on stage?) and the second was the Maroon 5-minded “Voices,” a funky little rock tune that shows an edge in the band that was otherwise largely absent. Costanza did her best to dance across the stage and reach as many crowd members as possible with her eyes to make sure that the energy in the room didn’t dip too low, and for the most part she succeeded. But the Sunday rain loomed heavy over their collective heads, and the event was ultimately as forgettable as it was pleasant.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson