By Justin Lee
"It’s like a big dance party on the bus every night," a soft-spoken David Usher explains of his current tour, promoting for his sophomore solo album, Morning Orbit. The same could be said about Usher’s stellar performance last Friday to a sold-out MacEwan Hall Ballroom audience.
The Moist front man played selections from his two solo albums, including Little Songs, as well as a handful of songs taken from the last three Moist albums. Sporting an Elvis tank top, Usher was greeted by the greater female audience with the kind of high-pierced shrieking normally reserved for dolphins and home alarm systems. Usher and his band wasted no time and performed an electrifying rendition of the Beatles"A Day In The Life," accented by Moist keyboardist Jeff Pearce’s trumpet solo.
Acoustic songs from Usher’s debut, such as "F-Train" and "Unholy, Dirty and Beautiful," were heard for the first time in their entirety, while Moist favorites such as "Resurrection" emancipated the crowd into full-out frenzy.
The show worked for the same reason Usher’s album works. Both balance the energy level between down-tempo melancholic tracks like "My Way Out," where Usher reveals his own personal battle
over substance abuse addiction, to the up-tempo tracks like "Black Black Heart," a tale of forbidden love.
Where Little Songs was an unrefined and intimate album portrait of an abstract singer/songwriter, Morning Orbit takes on a more grand-scaled approach to production values, resulting in an eclectic musical journey through the eyes of David Usher. Tracks like "Butterfly," "Joy In Small Places" and the lead single, "Alone In the Universe," possess a fresh breath of sugar-coated charm to them. And while the production on the record has been increased to allow for more experimentation, Usher has also placed an emphasis on making his lyrics more accessible.
"With this record, I’ve tried to make the lyrics have a bit more clarity than maybe other records. Not necessarily simplicity but more clarity," says Usher.
Being partly of Thai decent–Usher’s mother is from Thailand–Usher will be returning to his roots as he embarks on his first-ever tour through southeast Asia following his stint Canada, covering everywhere from Thailand to Hong Kong.
"That’s my mom’s culture, but because I was mostly brought up in the West, it’s only part of my culture. But I love it. I love going [to Thailand], I have millions of relatives there and I go every chance I get. Playing music there just really feels natural to me."
And while touring has always been familiar to Usher from the numerous shows that he performed around the world, touring as a solo artist is indeed a fresh experience altogether.
"It feels new to me. Every time I rolled into a city, I never know what I’m going to get because no one’s heard the songs," says Usher. "You don’t really know what the response is going to be. Every night it’s a big risk because you never know what the hell’s going to happen."
Usher must be pleased with the response from Friday’s show. Fans were left pleading for a second encore. The night’s highlight came as Usher and bandmates cut into a cover of Weezer’s "Hash pipe" in the closing number, combined with the opening lyrics from Madonna’s "Music" (complete with bassist Kim Bingham belting out in a high-pitched voice, "Do you like to?"). And, in some twisted inter-genre fashion, they succeeded in pulling off an entertaining hybrid of disco-pop-punk-rock.
Leave it to the ingenuity of David Usher take an existing form of music and add a unique flare.