Anyone who found themself spending Thanksgiving at the Great Hall was clearly given a trip through a time machine. San Francisco’s Nick Waterhouse, along with his band the Tarots, must be a reincarnation of some lost R&B/Soul soul. Literally dressed to the nines in pleated pants, hair coiffed to total neatness, and rounding it all out with a pair of Buddy Holly frames, Waterhouse and co. brought their bang-on set on Monday to arguably the best venue (aesthetically-speaking, too) that could house their old sound.
Waterhouse’s meticulous attention to detail to his labour of love first LP release Time’s All Gone was effortlessly translated onstage. This is a collective of musicians and artists who get it, who have hearts and souls just bursting with a fondness for that classic sound. The five-piece band, lead by the slick Waterhouse, simply transformed the atmosphere to that of the glory days of American R&B. They’ve got a dirty, groove-worthy thing going, piecing together gems reminiscent of the past, and no doubt inspired by the multitude of music that his former 65-year old roommate and record store owner Dick Vivian exposed him to. Despite this obvious homage to days of old, Waterhouse avoids becoming gimmicky or a blatant mimic of the greats; he simply is an embodiment of the past, a vessel for soul, possessed by the blues. The drums, keys, sax, trombone, bass and tambourine set the stage; Waterhouse’s guitar’s wails and yelps round it all out.
Tracks like the sax-heavy “Say I Wanna Know“ were unbearably smooth, despite the female vocalist in tow recovering from an awful cold. “I realize not every one can be a banger,” Waterhouse said, before grooving into his most ballad-like “Raina.” The stops and starts in the track are so well thought out and passionate, that the crowd couldn’t help but cheer him and the band on. Everyone was reeling with rhythm.
A real treat during the show was their cover of Charles Sheffield’s irresistible “It’s Your Voodoo Working.” Van Morrison’s “Gloria” was also cleverly snuck and entwined into Waterhouse’s “Indian Love Call.” The set just flowed from track to track, smooth and soulful, and sinfully sweet. “I’m feeling good,” said Waterhouse about halfway into his set, words I’m sure every mover and shaker in the audience could agree with. Waterhouse’s introductory trip to Toronto set the soul spinning, and for that I’m especially thankful.
Los Angeles group The Allah-Las opened for Waterhouse with their set of eerie, driving-down-a-dusty-desert-road instrumentals and ‘60s-esque numbers. They later joined Waterhouse and crowded the stage for an energetic and explosive cover of the Womack Brothers’ “It’s All Over Now.”
For a man who freely said that he never imagined performing his work for a live audience, Waterhouse went above and beyond my expectations with his seamless and soulful set. What a man; what a class act.