Joel Plaskett Emergency gets crowd wailing

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Joel Plaskett Emergency

Jonas Hrebeniuk

With a fan’s Nova Scotia flag clutched between his teeth, Joel Plaskett brought the East Coast to London as he rocked Call the Office.

Joel Plaskett Emergency, with openers Two Hours Traffic, played at Call the Office on Sunday and Monday nights.

On Monday, Two Hours Traffic kicked off the evening with its distinctive and infectious blend of pop-rock melodies.

It’s easy to forget the P.E.I.-based indie rockers have only been around since 2003. Its sound is tight and its onstage chemistry is electric, which might have something to do with having Joel Plaskett as their producer " but there’s more to it than that.

Two Hours Traffic was catchy, with the sharp vocal stylings of Liam Concoran floating over Derek Ellis’ pulsating drumbeat. Guitarist Alec O’Hanley and bassist Andrew Macdonald added to the band’s lush sound, which resonated like a heartbeat through the intimate venue.

A string of tunes including “Nighthawks” and “Backseat Sweetheart” " complete with handclaps, tambourine beats, and falsetto oo-ing " got toes tapping.

Two Hours Traffic toned things down with the acoustic-driven “Heroes of the Sidewalk” before returning to its usual thumping rhythm. By the time the band reached the set’s highlight " the single “Jezebel” from its new album, Little Jabs " most of the crowd was unable to stand still.

Despite Two Hours Traffic’s strong performance, it was clear the audience wanted Halifax-born Plaskett. When he took the stage, flanked by Emergency members Dave Marsh, Chris Pennell and special guest Peter Elkas, the crowd became even more energetic.

Plaskett’s set featured songs that spanned his career, from 2007’s Ashtray Rock to his teenage years in the indie band Thrush Hermit.

Whether he shimmied across the stage like James Brown, ad-libbed half his lyrics, or played a guitar solo on his knees, Plaskett never disappointed.

The Emergency’s rendition of “Snowed In/Cruisin,” an Ashtray Rock number Plaskett penned in his Thrust Hermit days, was one of the night’s most memorable moments.

The band built up momentum during the first half of the set with grinding electric guitars and Marsh’s maraca-heavy drumbeat before Plaskett switched to acoustic for the last half’s steady rhythm. At the set’s climax was an adept guitar solo from Plaskett, layered with the harmonica stylings of Elkas.

Plaskett kept the night interesting by mixing a few solo acoustic numbers, including his biggest hit to date, “Nowhere With You,” into the Emergency’s energetic rock and roll set. Plaskett was on fire during rock numbers like “Extraordinary” and equally at home playing toned-down, nostalgic pieces like “Soundtrack for the Night”.

Finally, he switched things up in the show’s encore to play drums for Ashtray Rock’s sing-along single “Fashionable People.”

Plaskett offered a crowd-pleasing show from start to finish.

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