It was a few years ago, when they were still called The Ladies & Gentlemen, that I first saw Small Sins live. They opened for Matthew Good and I was immediately hooked, especially with the one guy who had boundless energy. That "one guy" turned out to be Kevin Hilliard, who has his own persona as "The Clapper" and whose face adorns Small Sins merch, from t-shirts to foam hands. As much as Thomas D'Arcy is the band -- he recorded the first two albums himself -- Hilliard is a major factor for why their live show is so entertaining.
The band has been on a bit of a hiatus; their last album was in '07, and it was two years since I had seen them live. But those shows had always been great, and I enjoy the new album (the first recorded with the full band), so I was rather excited for the show.
Unfortunately we arrived just after the opening band, Lovers Love Haters ended, but just in time for Small Sins. They kicked off with the slower "My Dear", before bursting into "On The Line", and kept a great energy up through the entire set. They're one of those bands that you can just tell they are having a blast on stage, and that translates into an incredible energy. Especially Hilliard, who is one of the most energetic people I've seen play live. They bantered back and forth with each other as much as the crowd, but never making it those awkward in-joke that only the people on stage got. The enthusiasm showed by the band on stage was definitely infectious and had everyone in the half-full Media Club engaged.
They played mostly from the new album, but also a mix of older material. Even the acrid smell of smoke half way through didn't deter them as they got everyone in the room moving or clapping along. The main set ended with "Deja Vu", which was great live, but where k-os normally was in the song was just an instrumental full... which was a bit jarring.
They came back out for the encore, without D'Arcy, and Hilliard nailing his own version of Van Halen's "Jump", which was all sorts of cheesy-awesome. I've always been impressed with the Small Sins encores; they are one of the few bands I have seen do an actual encore, and even if the coming back was planned for this show, the songs they played were not, giving it a more genuine feeling rather than the usual practice of a band planning one. When D'Arcy came back, they discussed which songs to play and admitted to not knowing or screwing up some songs at previous shows. It gave it a really spontaneous quality to the encore. "Pot Calls Kettle Black" and a couple older ones closed out the show, and they prefaced "It's Easy" by saying it was the last time they would ever play it... then joked about how it was not the first time they had put the song into retirement, and that they had probably done so in Vancouver before. Then proclaimed it would only be played in Vancouver, and launched into it. At the start, Hilliard disappeared from stage, only to come back and have a synth-duel with D'Arcy. Who then left the stage himself, with his bass in the hands of a random dude pulled on stage, and let the self-admitted half-in-the-bag Hilliard go nuts, running into the crowd to play the end of the song.
It was definitely one of the most fun and entertaining shows of the year, and even though there was another show, with great bands, happening at the same time down the street, I do not for a minute regret choosing Small Sins over it. I just hope it isn't another two years before I see them again. And that more people will be able to share in the show.
My Dear, On The Line, Airport, On The Run, Stay, Never Again, Why Don't You Believe Me?, She's The Source, We Will Break Our Own Hearts, Too Much To Lose, I Need A Friend, What Your Baby's Been Doing, You Will Lie, Deja Vu.
[encore] Jump (Van Halen cover), Pot Calls Kettle Black, Threw It All Away, It's Easy.