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Excellent Steel Horses: Rock Plaza Central @ Main Hall

Posted by Jer / January 29, 2007

RPC1.jpg Chris Eaton during one of his quieter moments
Maybe it's the violin. Or the mandolin. Maybe it's the four, five and sometimes six part folk harmonies. Whatever it is, I can't shake the feeling that Rock Plaza Central sounds straight out of the East Coast. They remind me of a Nova Scotia night out, sea salt and all. They certainly don't sound like anything coming out of Toronto now, which is where the band is actually based.

Rock Plaza Central are currently touring their latest offering, the delightfully peculiar Are We Not Horses?, an album written from the perspective of robotic horses who are hoping to transcend their steel nature. Lead singer/songwriter Chris Eaton is also a novelist and a former copywriter so his penchant for the imaginary comes naturally. Rock Plaza Central songs range from moody ("Fifteen Hands") to jubilant ("My Children Be Joyful") and Saturday night's set at the Main Hall followed this trajectory.

RPC2.jpg The highlight of the show was watching the band pull off the album's varied textures and lush instrumentation onstage. The ensemble harmony at the end of the night's final track ("I Am an Excellent Steel Horse") stopped everyone in the room. Despite the crowd's obvious enjoyment, it was Eaton who seemed to be having the most fun. Maybe it was because of the beer. "I did the sound check standing up", Eaton remarked while sitting down, "then I spent too much time at the Green Room". Drunk or not, Eaton's playful personality, and his interplay with the band and the crowd, gave the show a cosy kitchen party feel. It's just that this kitchen was filled with violins, trumpets and songs about horses.

Oxford Collapse, the Sub Pop-signed headliners, were smart to take the stage almost immediately after Rock Plaza Central. Leave as little time as possible for the atmosphere and the decent size crowd to dissipate. Unfortunately, good timing wasn't enough to keep the audience around. It's not that Oxford Collapse are bad. Their upbeat driving rock would fit well at a backyard party on an episode of the OC. Some of their songs show great potential ("Please Visit Your National Parks") and the Brooklyn boys make a lot of noise for a three piece (bass, electric guitar and drums). Even though they were enthusiastic and much less sloppy than RPC, they were just too one dimensional to keep the crowd engaged.

The Will Austin Escape opened the night, but I was stuck like a deer in headlights watching the Habs get their asses kicked by the Leafs.

OC.jpgOxford Collapse

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