Before beginning this review, one has to put up a disclaimer. I was seduced into going to this gig by a friend, who is a massive Matt Berninger fan. I didn’t know much about EL VY, outside a Google search and a few YouTube listens. So if you are a hardcore fan and you are reading this, be forewarned: I know nothing and I may be wrong.

Oh my, what did I get myself into? A sold out gig (many weeks ahead) to a crowd of adoring 40-somethings that have followed the man into his new venture like adoring fans do. Whoops and wheeps exploded as soon as he came onstage or anytime there was a moment of silence within the first four unremarkable songs. See, EL VY is a duo fronted by Matt Berninger, lead singer to The National. This band fills the Bell Centre, and there we had him, mingling and getting up close to his fan’s phone cameras for their close up videos. The entire front row watched the gig through digital lenses: he didn’t seem to mind one bit and even played up to it. Somehow reminding me of Father John Misty, Matt Berninger has created a new persona for EL VY, probably to allow himself to play outside the bounds of his more somber and suited official band, both on a personal and on a musical level. He seems to be having a lot of fun with the social media aspect of this new role, publishing lots for his Facebook page on a daily basis.

Musically, this show did not impress me much:  there was nothing I had never heard before nor outstanding songs to be heard.  Matt Berninger’s famous baritone carried the entire set and besides, there was not much to remember. Lyrics were sometimes funny, sometimes repetitive (song 2 and 3: It’s a Game and Sleepin’ Light, both sang about being “so alone”). The other official duo member – multi instrumentalist Brent Knopf of Ramona Falls (and formerly Menomena) sailed the musical ship by playing guitar and keyboard gracefully but was most noticeable when trying to keep his tall bespectacled collaborator from rambling on too much between songs. Return to the Moon the title song of this duo’s first album was a good example of 4-chord song blandness – my guess is this was an attempt at getting on radio airwaves. This album came out only two weeks ago on 4AD, so it may well work out for them.

On a more positive note, there were a few highlights: I’m the Man to Be had an inventive distorted guitar hook and funny with lyrics exploring the lighter side of our hero :

I’m peaceful cause my dick’s in sunlight
Held up by kites
Cause I’m the man to be

I’ll be the one in the lobby in the green collared f*ck me shirt
The green one.

Need a Friend also won me over with some funky keyboard phrases, and my EL VY connoisseur friend Sylvie’s favourite: Happiness Missouri had a crowd-pleasing groove and refrain going. My personal fave was a very heartfelt and low-key rendition of She Drives Me Crazy from Fine Young Cannibals that ended in a trashing ball of noise. Whether I liked this because I found myself in known musical territory is anyone’s guess… Also to be complimented was the fine light show, which definitely had better budget than most bands playing at Fairmount and did good at following musical and song patterns. Even the green one.

As the show ended as I was warming to EL VY. Unfortunately no encore was possible due to the short recording lifespan of this band, but Mr. Berninger replaced this with an impromptu bain de foule, captured for eternity on Facebook. Does this new musical venture have a future? Only time will tell, but I don’t think I’m alone in being more inclined towards a The National return.

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About The Author

Julie Godon
Collaborator - RREVERB
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Julie was born from a trumpeter dad and a drummer mum with music written in her DNA. She is from this generation that went from listening to vinyl, to creating mixtapes on cassettes, to splurging her early savings on a CD player, to discovering Napster, the iPod and so on… In 2005 she took part in the launch of Radiolibre, Quebec’s first music streaming service and in 2006 started Palmares.ca, a francophone MP3 store. She spent 10 years looking after over 80 Canadian radio websites and has a ticket stub diary of over 300 shows.