Review Colin Crawford Photos Keiko Hart
After headlining a tiny festival in Nelson to kick-off their fall 2016 tour, Preoccupations made their way to the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. After a year of well-documented controversy over their former name, the newly rebranded group is embarking on a 42 show tour of their new self-titled album. The Preoccupations LP juggles a synthier, new wave sound with the post-punk grit that launched them into the limelight over the past three years. The album’s central theme is the raw, meandering, emotional drive for balance; finding an equilibrium between old and new, pain and pleasure. The bleak sincerity and vulnerability in lyrics such as “degrade into a fraction of yourself” and “all dead inside/ all gonna die” balance on upbeat drum tracks and New Order-esque synths, giving the gloom of this album catharsis and hope. This juxtaposition of destruction and re-growth gives Preoccupations a new emotional and philosophical maturity not found under their previous moniker Viet Cong.
While this comes across thematically and sonically on the record, it was clear that the band was working out how to translate it into their live show. Unfortunately, the relatively sparse and motionless crowd at the Rickshaw reciprocated none of the energy coming from the stage. Despite this and guitarist Daniel Christiansen playing through an illness, Preoccupations delivered a solid performance, leaving it all onstage during their final song, ‘Death’ from Viet Cong. The recorded version of this song clocks in at just over 11 minutes, but this live version easily passed 15. The now shirtless Mike Wallace shook the lights on either side of his kit while Christiansen collapsed around his guitar and onto his knees, spit hanging from his mouth as he continued to play. Guitarist Scott Munro broke at least two strings. This tour will only get better with time, as the band irons out the kinks in playing their new material live and fully come into their new identity as Preoccupations.