Living in Canada doesn’t hold a lot of advantages if you’re a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event.
For one thing, if you reside anywhere other than Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal (and yes, there’s a lot more to this country than those four cities), there’s a good chance the band has never played anywhere near you. Fortunately, as a Vancouverite, I get my share of shows. But if I still called Calgary home, as I did for much of my life, the touring situation would be pretty bleak indeed.
For another thing, TATE merchandise takes freaking FOREVER to cross the Canadian border. I don’t know what it is about the Canadian customs system, but somehow my fellow fans in Switzerland and Germany received their Such Hot Blood vinyl a good two weeks before I did, though I’m a scant 3-hour flight from LA and they shipped on the same day.
But enough whining. It’s unbecoming, and we Canadians are nothing if not accommodating.
Besides, it turns out we have something the rest of you don’t: our very own Super Secret TATE Album.
The crazy thing is, I had no idea it was super secret. I assumed that TATE fans everywhere added iTunes Live from Montreal – The Airborne Toxic Event to their collection back on Aug. 3, 2010, just as I did. But I recently came to the sudden realization that, no, this is in fact a Canada-only treat: made in Canada, and available for purchase only in Canada.
iTunes Live from Montreal is a 7-track acoustic performance recorded in a Montreal Apple store; a setting which prompts singer Mikel Jollett to confess, “I love my iPod,” before sheepishly admitting, “I never thought I’d play a show in an Apple store.”
The show itself is a slowed down, stripped down affair, with arrangements similar to those featured in the first album’s acoustic version series. Several of the songs are downshifted slightly in tempo compared to the album renditions, which only serves to magnify the vocals.
Opener “Wishing Well” works particularly well here, Mikel’s voice containing just a hint of rawness. And then it’s straight into what was, for me, the highlight of the album when I first got it: “A Letter to Georgia.” Since this release preceded that of All I Ever Wanted by two months, this was the first version of the song I ever laid ears on, and though the later recording would surpass it, Georgia became a favorite on first listen. It was so unlike anything I’d previously heard from the band; their first true ballad, and a stunner at that.
That gift is followed by a trio of cuts from the debut album in “Something New,” “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” and “Gasoline.” Of these, it’s the latter that stands out, its energy leaping out of the speakers. “Moving On,” meanwhile, doesn’t quite pack its normal punch, with the vocals more subdued than usual and guitarist Steven Chen’s power chords missed.
Up next is “This Losing,” which to this point was known only as a B-side on the deluxe version of the freshman album. This recording functions as the closest thing to a bombastic version of the song that we’re ever likely to receive. Anna Bulbrook’s viola loses no urgency, however, propelling the number through its frantic highs and pensive lows.
Finally, the set closes with the crowd-pleasing favorite, “Sometime Around Midnight.” With quieter instrumentation and the pace dropped a notch, the song comes off more reflective and regretful than anguished and desperate, much like the acoustic video with which fans are no doubt very familiar.
All in all, it’s a shame this collection did not enjoy a wider release. Sometimes a TATE fan just needs to chill out with a glass of wine and some acoustic goodness, and iTunes Live from Montreal fits that bill nicely. Unfortunately, the difficulty of procuring it outside of Canada will likely relegate it to “great white whale” status, with many fans of the band unaware that it even exists.
For those of you outside my home and native land, I realize full well that, in extolling the virtues of an Airborne album that you may have no way of getting your hands on, I’ve subjected you to cruel and unusual punishment. To which I can only offer up that most Canadian of phrases: “I’m sorry.”
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.