It was a bit odd for me on Saturday night to be standing barely five feet away from the stage where, ten years earlier, Canasta played their very first show. Odd because for the first nine and a half years of their existence I paid very little attention to them. Just a couple years ago I was hearing a lot of their praise for their most recent album, The Fakeout, The Tease, and The Breather-and still I gave them no mind. It wasn’t until I saw them play a show at Lincoln Hall in January that I discovered their majesty. Last week I reviewed their now two year old album on the site, and it is a brilliant piece of work. I plan on remaining much more aware of their moves over the following ten years.
The show kicked off with a slideshow detailing the band’s history, put together by co-founder Elizabeth Lindau. Pictures of the original lineup were set to the theme song from “Perfect Strangers,” while later photos were backed with Sara McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You.” In addition to the ever-evolving facial hair of Matt Priest, it was interesting to see just how many people have been involved with Canasta over the years. Near the end of the slideshow there was a list of every show they’ve ever played, and it read like the opening of a Star Wars movie. Over the last decade the band has played something like one hundred million shows.
On this particular evening, the show was as much a history lesson for new fans as it was a rollicking good time for long-loyal diehards (Canastanites?). Their very first show at Schubas was a Belle & Sebastian cover show, at which they played one song-“Seeing Other People.” Of the four covers Canasta tore through for their anniversary, two of them were by the Glaswegians. “I Didn’t See It Coming” was played near perfectly by the band, while “I’m A Cuckoo” fell a little flat for me. Probably because I’m a much bigger fan of the former. Back in September Canasta played a full set as Belle & Sebastian, which I missed. Hopefully they’ll be doing that again someday.
The other two covers they played were “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling, another song they played previously at Schuba’s, and Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” This cover of Teddy Riley’s most famous song has become a crowd favorite, and it’s easy to see why. While Matt Priest nails every line with some pretty impressive flow, the song really hits when Lindau drops in with her verse. The song could easily fall into parody territory in the wrong hands, but you can tell the band really loves it. I’ve seen it performed once before, and it really took them from a band that seemed interesting to me, to a band that I had to learn as much about as possible. (I took this video at Lincoln Hall. The audio sounded better to me than the one from Schubas)
The originals that they played really spanned the entire discography of their career. Some of the songs they hadn’t played live in seven or eight years. For as many songs as possible they brought up the members who had left the band that were available to play for the evening. Most notably for me was Colin Sheaff. He was the bands drummer for the first 6 years or so of existence. I had never heard of him before, but he is a ridiculously talented drummer who I hope is making music somewhere. Jay Santana, who helped out for a while until Brian Palmieri became the new permanent drummer, also came up for a few songs.
While I didn’t know a lot of the older songs, I was glad to hear them. “Impostors” is a great song that I wish I had known going in. For a band that does such a great job of layering instruments, it was nice to hear “Two If By Sea” played and cheered for. Luckily Canasta also dove into their most recent album for at least six songs out of the twenty. The highlight of these was the show’s closer, “Appreciation.” Played with a horn section, the song is even more powerful live. “Mexico City” also sounded fantastic, which the band credits to Schubas soundman, Fabrice, who has done sound for them a good number of times over the years.
As good as the music was, I think my favorite moments were the intimate thank you’s and appreciation that Priest and company showered on those in the audience. Every time Matt would speak about a particular person and how much they’ve helped Canasta over the years, I’d look over and see Elizabeth on the verge of tearing up. It’s good to see humble, hard working musicians giving the fans and their collaborators all the credit. Even though I haven’t been following the band for that long, I feel like I’m appreciated as a fan as much as anyone else. All Canasta wants to do is deliver solid songs for those that want to listen. Here’s to ten more years of that kind of dedication.