Review – L’Rain at The Pearl, Vancouver, Dec 7 2023
“I just have one rule:” L’Rain told the crowd at The Pearl last Thursday night. “If you’re here, be here. And if you’re not here, don’t be here.”
It became quite obvious what was meant by this. This performance by L’Rain (the stage name used by musician Taja Cheek) with her band (also called L’Rain) was a night that demanded your attention. This was not a concert where you could sit in a corner and have a conversation with your friends. I saw maybe one or two phones come out to take a photo or video, rather than the dozens you normally see. I for one forgoed taking notes on my phone like I normally would, and relied solely on my memory to recall how the night went. And I’m glad I did.
From start to finish, L’Rain grabbed the audience by the throat, and brought them along on an ethereal, jazzy journey into a synthscape of music and sound. This trip was punctuated by beautiful and emotional vocals, and impassioned performances by every member of the band.
Those of us who arrived early to the show were doubly blessed with two openers. The first, Waash, is a rocky, upbeat band that got the crowd in a good mood before the show. They were having a ton of fun up there on stage, and although it was very different from L’Rain’s music, you could tell that the audience was on board.
The second opener, Lucy Liyou, brought a very different energy to the stage. Liyou combined and synthesized sounds, singing, voice-to-text recordings, and many other elements to tell a story of trauma and family and growing up—one that was at times jarring, at times funny, and always beautiful.
It felt like through these two openers, we saw two extremes of what music could be: the first brought the sounds and structures that we would expect in music we hear on a regular basis. The second brought a kind of performance art that pushed the boundaries of what live performance can be. And then L’Rain, herself a fearless and genre-pushing artist, came out to take elements from both performances and display a stunning kind of middle ground, one that surprised and kept the audience on their toes, while also affording opportunities to sing and groove along.
It’s hard to describe this concert in a way that makes sense. It was one of those experiences where while you were having it, you were so taken by the sound and quality of performances that time seemed to slip by without notice. And yet, after the show, as we emerged in a dream-like stupor into the cold night, we couldn’t stop talking about what we had just witnessed.
This was a singular performance. L’Rain is an artist who greatly benefits from the live element—not because her recorded work isn’t excellent, because it is, but because her music becomes something wholly different. Between songs, L’Rain at one point began to explain the metaphor behind her song “I Killed Your Dog,” saying that she did not in fact kill any dogs, for the record. She changed her mind though, and decided we didn’t need it explained to us. We could figure it out for ourselves.
In a way, she was right. Her music creates room for our own interpretations and life experiences to insert in where it makes sense. Even if we don’t understand it fully, we can find something that works for us—something that we can relate to. While this wasn’t the most conventional show I’ve ever been to, I got a lot out of it just from it challenging what I can expect from a concert, and for the warm feelings it left in me that lingered long into the night.