Crash Test Dummies with Colleen Brown

Date and Venue 2 October 2010 @ 8pm | the Chan Shun Concert Hall – The Chan Centre for Performing Arts UBC • 6265 Crescent Road, UBC, Vancouver BC

Reviewer Nila Gopaul

Let us begin with special guest and opening act Colleen Brown. Edmonton, Alberta singer-songwriter, pianist and guitarist Colleen Brown is wicked. Beside guitarist Peter Belec ... memories awaken to the era of Carole King, Carly Simon and James Taylor (although Brown and Belec are not romantically involved). "I play with box, not balls," she told us. And that she does. Brown is a pop/folk star who wows with her angelic voice and wit. Her songs included Boyfriend and Love You Baby and Ain't got no man (to have problems with) Touring with the Crash Test Dummies for Ms. Brown has been serendipitous to say the least: the first CD she ever purchased just happened to be the Crash Test Dummies. Brown is a star. I can guarantee that just like the Edmonton Folk Fest, Brown got another good fan base at the Chan Centre tonight.

The stellar acoustic setting at the Chan Centre certainly helps artists out, but so does hard work. Brown is not new to the music scene. Her first all-original full-length album Peculiar Thing came out in 2004.

Concert-goers were stirring in their seats waiting for the main act. After an extended hiatus, they got a new taste of the Crash Test Dummies. While still being spoiled by the band's most unique hits of the ' 90s: Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Superman's Song, Keep a Lid on Things, and Swimming in Your Ocean, the Crash Test Dummies' frontman and founder Brad Roberts and Crash Test musicians, Ellen Reid (vocals) and Murray Pulver (guitar) showcased Oooh La- La!, the band's newest album.

And ooh la la to the Crash Test Dummies. It's hard to forget the bass-baritone voice of Brad Roberts. His voice like his words are majestic. In the land of poetry, irony is still carefully crafted into every song on Oooh La-La!, although there is less of an edge.

Roberts is just at a different stage in his life and Oooh La-La! is different: it is happy sounding. Devotees (pre and post-hiatus) will still appreciate this smart experimental band. As always, the music is quirky, literate and existential. Roberts still takes a methodical approach to writing (on the album he plays ‘70s-era analog musical toys).

Post-hiatus/Oooh La-La! is well-adjusted, as was evident on stage. As Roberts so boldy puts it, "Oooh La-La! is f***ing great!"

Not Today Baby, You Said You'd Meet Me (in California), And It's Beautiful, and What I am famous for (...Call me snake or call me rat/Its squatter's rights from where I'm at...) are eclectic pieces, the lyrics entertaining. The variety on Oooh La La is also impressive, dark tales of squatters and quirky tales of an evil ex-girlfriend and eternal bachelorhood.

Roberts discouraged the use of flash photography but asked the audience to videotape what they wanted and then to upload whatever they filmed on youtube, to get the word out there (and it's there!). True, the Crash Test Dummies post-mainstream career had not been stellar commercially, but they are back in the limelight after a well-earned sabbatical.

© 2010 Nila Gopaul