When we arrived at The Independent I was surprised by the lack of people. Maybe I live in a bizarre universe in which Saddle Creek in the early 2000’s was the epitome of music, but I thought Azure Ray coming back would be big. Apparently I was wrong. It could have been the rainy Sunday night, or maybe it’s that slow, haunting pop songs are out of style. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a lovely, and surprisingly varied, evening of music.
The show started with Morgan Nagler as the solo version of Whispertown2000, listed as simply Whispertown, coming out on stage and talking about how few people were there. Maybe that was why she came on 15 minutes late? Whispertown was simple songs with just Morgan Nagler on vocals and guitar. Her voice is quite pleasant and her personality seems sweet and charming, but by the end of the set I was a little bored. Without a band backing her the songs tended to fall into the same rhythm, one blending into another. Mostly I was left with the feeling that an album would be nice to listen to but live there is not enough there to hold your interest.
Now, I had never heard of Tim Fite before tonight, and standing in front of the stage when he came on, I felt like the only one, if the loud cheers and small crowd rushing the stage are any indication. He is a one man band of sorts, accompanied by a video screen and a background vocalist named Sexy Leroy who gave his performance in a small box on the screen “via satellite.” As the electronic beats of his music started and it became obvious that he was some sort of comedic rapper/singer I started to wonder about the person who booked the show. Were they smoking crack? But it turns out they’re doing the whole tour together. Weird. With his hilarious videos and songs he was a tough act to follow. If I were Azure Ray I wouldn’t want to play after him, but maybe they just want him around? He seemed like a cool guy to have around.
What I’m trying to say, in a roundabout way, is if you get a chance to see Tim Fite, take it. Unless you are a demon with no sense of humor. It is worth it just for the videos in between and during the songs. My favourite was the adventure of a pink cockroach. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but he was quite adventurous. Musically it was all over the place, in a good way, jumping from rock to country to hip hop, which made the set even more interesting and fun. The performance was so good in fact that I didn’t look at my watch once. A miracle on a sleepy Sunday night!
The problem was everywhere that Tim Fite was variety and joy, Azure Ray ended up being full of sameness (is that a word?) and sadness. Maria Taylor and Orinda Fink have two of the best voices I’ve ever heard, and the way they blend together is nothing short of miraculous, but there’s only so far it can take me. Maybe it was just too long of a day (chasing nephews) to end it with this serene music, but five songs in, when they went into another one of their slow heartfelt songs I had to stifle a yawn. Not to say that the show didn’t have its merits. There were a few upbeat songs, “If I Fall” being the real standout, but it just wasn’t enough. The first real happy moment was ten songs into the set, which was just a little too long for me.
Now, I know that slow moody songs sung beautifully is exactly what you sign up for when going to see a band like Azure Ray, and on that front they do not disappoint, but I guess I was just expecting that little extra. When I’ve seen Maria Taylor solo, she’s managed to break up the slow moodiness of her catalouge with fun banter between songs. With Orinda Fink added to the mix I thought it would be even more charming and engaging, but it just wasn’t, at least until the two were left alone on stage at the end of the encore when they started teasing each other because Orinda Fink never wants to play “Rise.” It was a fun moment and seemed to loosen up both of them, but unfortunately there was only one song left after that.
Despite my criticisms, it is certainly a tour worth going to. Maria and Orinda’s voices really are beautiful, and they are pretty easy on the eyes as well. They are really great with the fans too, giving eye contact and little smiles (and Maria Taylor’s eyes, swoon!). I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt in that this is early in the tour and maybe they’re not fully comfortable on stage with each other yet. Though maybe it was the fact that I spent all day with 5 children aged two to twelve that had me yawning so early? No matter what Azure Ray is still worth a listen, and get there early for Tim Fite!
Azure Ray’s only setlist: