If anyone at the Ark last Wednesday night was deeply saddened by the announcement that afternoon that R.E.M.'s drummer had resigned, it certainly didn't show. Rather than distracted sighs, audience members rejoiced and let out wild cheers, stamping their feet and wolf whistling until Canadian folk heroes Moxy Fruvous graced the stage.
The full capacity crowd was so jazzed up after the 45 minute opening performance by the paperboys, a six piece Celtic pop group, that they called for an encore. It didn't seem to matter that they came for Fruvous--they just wanted and demanded lively musicality, which they got by way of the Paperboy's banjo, fiddle, maraca, accordion and Guitar medleys of down 'n dirty bluegrass.
But it was when the four prodigal Toronto sons emerged on-stage that the crowd knew for sure that their musical needs would be met. As they barreled on-stage with an intensity one might expect after drinking a case of jolt, it was clear that the Fru-four had taken a week off from touring and were ready to truly entertain.
It wasn't until after Moxy slammed their way through an a cappella "Get in the Car," Bass-heavy and dark "Poor Mary Lane," and sand-paper soft "Horseshoes" that they bothered to breathe and smile. After the startlingly fierce beginning, lead singer and drummer Jian Ghomeshi welcomed the crowd and set them at ease with a few silly jokes, letting viewers know that the group didn't take itself too seriously
Ghomeshi, dressed in a vibrant orange T-shirt and tight brown cords, bopped all over the stage throughout the two-hour show with such a manic air that could only highlight the frivolity of the lyrics.
On "The Kids Song," guitarist/percussionist Mike Ford, bassist Murray Foster and guitar/accordian player Dave Matheson went into kiddie mode, their voices affecting the high-piched, pre-pubescent quality necessary to make such silly rhymes work. No other band could have pulled off play fighting on stage while singing "The markers that I just got are non-toxic / And my sister says the lake is quite dioxic, / I don't know what these words mean, I just want to play where it's clean, / But something in the backyard made my dog sick."
In their normal voices, Moxy romped through delicious harmonies on the silly satires and the slower love songs alike. They proudly played a smug "Michigan Militia," noting that the university oasis of Ann Arbor was probably the only safe place in the state to sing: "I hope you like the double barrel, / I think it goes with your Apparel."
Although they continually proved their musical mastery by quickly swapping instruments and keeping up the pace, it was during the changes of pace that moxy fruvous really showed their mettle. Donning black derbies, the four men slunk around stage of a dark "Boo Time." Ford had the audience echo his every bark, coo or meow until breaking out into wild scat riffs. And the best performance of the night came as Matheson, blue stage lights shining oddly off his newly shaven head, crooned out a simple, spare version of "Fell In Love."
Even those who didn't know song names or works didn't go home disappointed. The wild pseudo-rap ode to Dr. Seuss "Green Eggs and Ham" pleased young and old, and even people who hate covers applauded loudly for renditions of the Talking Heads "Psychokiller" and Elvis Costello's "Allison."
More performance art and less reserved concert appearance, the entire night was pure adrenaline. With requests for two encores, the second of which came after the house lights had already come up, there's no doubt that Moxy will be headed back this way. Mox-sure you don't miss it!