Thursday evening, February 21, saw Toronto-based Bahamas visiting the lovely Teragram Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles and performing a sold out show in front of an appreciative audience in support of the recently released Earthtones LP.
From the first notes of "So Free" to the final strains of "Any Place" over an hour later, the crowd was held in rapture by frontman and songwriter Afie Jurvanen and his able band. Bassist Darcy Yates and drummer Jason Tait provided rock-steady rhythm for the duration of the show, ranging from the spartan requirements of "Waves" to the deep groove of "Bad Boys Need Love Too," always in pocket, always serving the song and allowing their bandmates to layer above with confidence. Guitarist Christine Bougie provided tasteful accompaniment all evening long, adding texture throughout and providing several standout solos that built on the melodic elements of each song to create emotional high points. Playing sans plectrum for the evening, Bougie’s sinewy six-string work provided compelling counterpoint to Jurvanen’s own terrific guitar playing, and at times some of her more staccato lines even reminded this listener of Stevie Wonder’s syncopated keyboard playing.
A highlight of the evening was Bougie’s delicate work on the lap steel guitar on the haunting "Like A Wind," a dynamic song that makes the most of its quiet-loud-quiet structure. The sublime Felicity Williams weaved her gorgeous backing vocals throughout each song, treating her voice as another instrument within the band, sometimes mimicking melodic lines in call-and-response with the guitars or soaring into the upper reaches in several spine-tingling moments such as in "No Wrong," and always amazing the audience with her ability to add depth and emotion.
One ardent admirer of Williams’ in the audience was even called out by Jurvanen, eliciting a shy smile from Williams herself, who perhaps doesn't realize just how important she is to the overall sound of the band. Not to be outdone, Jurvanen capitalized on the freedom afforded by having a crack band and shined as both guitarist and singer. One of Jurvanen’s most intriguing qualities is his ability to unleash a line from his guitar that reminds you just how potent of a guitarist he is and yet he always plays within the song, never adding notes for the sake of notes, only playing what he believes the song needs.
His statements on the guitar throughout the night’s performance were consistently in support of that one thing: the song. Jurvanen is clearly comfortable as a vocalist as well, playing with the phrasing of his lyrics to the delight of the crowd and hitting upper register notes with ease and emotion, such as on the intense encore-opening "Never Again." Jurvanen himself commented on the crowd’s respectful appreciation of the music as they provided the silence the songs need to be fully appreciated but also displayed hearty enthusiasm at the many musical and emotional highlights of the evening. Bahamas continues to tour in support of the wonderful Earthtones and this reviewer strongly recommends that readers experience the band in an intimate environment such as the Teragram sooner than later. By all rights, Bahamas will be entertaining much larger venues in the near future