REVIEW: Geoff Berners Victory Party!!

A new CD from Vancouver’s King of Klezmer and a great CD release show!! A review from fellow musician and radio personality Joey Only…from 102.7FM Co-op Radio’s Sound Resistance…March 13th, 2011.


Geoff Berner unveiled his new record to his home city just last night in Vancouver’s Wise Hall.  In many ways his show he put on that night was standard and vintage Geoff Berner with Wayne Adams and Diona Davies.  Perhaps the only noticeable difference for their set was how Wayne climbed in behind a full drum kit for a change departing from his normal way of playing rhythm.  The fact that there was nothing incredibly different about their set didn’t seem to bother anyone in the sold out hall, this was exactly what they’d come to expect of Geoff, it was what they wanted and he gave it to them with reckless abandon.

That’s the case with his new album called VICTORY PARTY, it is a departure from standard Geoff Berner in that it’s production quality is that much higher than anything he has done so far.  The music is basically the same, classic klezmer steeped in minor harmonic scales, but on this record Geoff has added a few new tricks.  For example, in the song Victory Party which opens the album there are a few power chord strokes on an electric guitar that just adds that extra something at that point of the song.  The third song in the album actually has some electronica type sounds for the drums while the music remained standard klezmer.  The additions on the record are small, well placed and though they represent a risk taken musically they do not go so far that they leave the listener scratching their heads.  He departed from his standard sound just enough that a fan can be satisfied that Geoff Berner is still exploring the limits of his music…while it continues to give the fans exactly what they want more of, the wit and sound that is uniquely Geoff Berner’s.

Victory Party is an amazing record.  Geoff commented to me that he spent more on this album than he had any other so far and that showed.  The studio production is top end, every aspect of the sound on this record is spot on!  Harmonic is the only way I can describe its quality.  There is a gospel record Elvis put out in the 60’s that I now compare other records to for production quality, there was something on that Elvis record about how every single note played was perfected.  Every tingle of a cymbal sounds just awesome, it’s special to have a record that can emulate that sonic perfection and Victory Party is very close to it.

The songs are as brilliant and witty as ever, the humor is bold as usual and I can’t find a reason why I won’t be playing this record on my radio show for the next six months every single week.

Standing at the Wise Hall and looking around the crowd I remarked to friends of mine and Geoff’s that this guy really has the city of Vancouver wrapped around his wrist.  He can do whatever he wants at this point, there is nothing to stop him.  Very few roots musicians can sell out a hall as large as the Wise Hall consistently.  Geoff is able to do that every time these days, and doing it while putting on a show that isn’t that much different than many of the shows I have seen him put on there.  There’s something about his demeanor and stage presence that people just don’t get sick of easily.  He manages to play the fool as good as anyone has ever done, while there is no fool inside the head of Geoff Berner.

If there was one thing I can comment on it’s Geoff’s trio.  Hearing his sound on the new album I think Geoff is ready to bring a few new people into the band for a fuller sound.  It’s understandable why Geoff would hesitate to do this, certainly it is difficult to be an egalitarian band leader who pays his musicians handsomely when there are six of them.  However seeing Wayne behind the drum kit gave me visions in my head of how much I would like to be playing the bass with a band like theirs, the accordion covered up the lack of bass sonically but I still can’t help but think it’s the only thing this band needs.  It would fill the sound up and make dancing that much easier to have a stand-up bass or a five string electric that can hit those low notes for the droning sections of Geoff’s show.

But nobody in the Wise Hall seemed to care that much about the sonic hole in the bands sound, they were willing to get up and dance without that low end in the noise.

The show was opened by Joanna Chapman Smith who held the audience in the palm of her hand for fifteen straight minutes.  It wasn’t until she asked the audience to participate in a song by snapping their fingers that she lost them a little bit, giving them permission to make noise seemed to give them permission to talk as well.  I am a big fan of Joanna’s songs and her album Contraries.  Geoff likes to go second at his shows so that allowed Orkestrar Slivovitza to close the show with all their horn-y-ness.  The last time Geoff released a record it was my band that closed the show, which I didn’t find out until two hours before showtime that I was expected to close the night…which worried me at the time as I had a fill in bass player.  Geoff likes to go second so that he can get on with the partying sooner than later, there is no doubt that they had bottles of whiskey backstage which they dove straight into when coming off the stage.

Geoff Berner leaves to Europe on Tuesday of this week with Wayne Adams and a fill in fiddle player as Diona is teaching students, once again he will go and show Europe why he is one of the best artistic and musical minds that British Columbia has to offer the world.  The Wise Hall show was a victory party for his Victory Party album, Geoff is only going in one direction which is ever forward.


About joeyonly

Dr.Joey Only will knock you out...and do it with country music!!! HIYAAAAAA!! View all posts by joeyonly

One response to “REVIEW: Geoff Berners Victory Party!!

  • Hank

    I saw Geoff play here in Bremen 2 weeks ago – it was a brilliant show. The two back up musicians, Diona and Wayne, really do put a rounder sound to his act, even though I also really liked seeing him solo. It’s a different vibe and it both rocks. Of course I can only support the idea of you playing stand up bass with them – already for the selfish reason of seeing you over here in Europe!

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