Butt-rocking show

IAN NATHANSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 4:05 PM ET

OTTAWA -- When a band such as The Watchmen changes its musical direction from bare-bones alt-rock to melodic, electronica-fused alt-pop, excuse us if a skeptical eyebrow automatically rises.

On top of the new material, will the band try to infuse its newfound digital love on older favourites in concert? How will their public react to the change?

In fact, the skepticism caught the attention of Sammy Kohn, The Watchmen's original drummer, who left the band a year ago. After reading an online interview prefacing last night's Congress Centre show, Kohn phoned in from his Rounder Records office in Toronto. "I get the impression you're not a fan of the new stuff," a slightly pained Kohn said.

On record, specifically The Watchmen's new Slomotion disc, the new direction takes some getting used to. But as far as last night's 1,100 watchers-on were concerned, practically everything was still accepted as The Watchmen. Such skepticism, as it turned out, wasn't totally warranted.

Flanked by guitarist Joey Serlin, touring drummer Ryan Ahoff and a grooving Ken Tizzard manning bass, digital doodads and turntable, lead singer Daniel Greaves was as comfortable wrapping his smooth vocal prowess around the digitized grooves of new songs Holiday (Slow It Down) and I Like It as he was with the well-worn rock faves such as Wiser and Incarnate.

Even as they embraced its dynamic new aura, The Watchmen were careful enough to balance their 1 hour, 45 minute set -- which was being webcast on the Internet -- with present and past.

A noteworthy surprise was Stereo -- instead of following the remix that appears on Slomotion, the band chose the rockier version. A safe road, perhaps? Naw, it just rocked its ass off better in concert.

Speaking of rocking derrieres, Toronto's By Divine Right eschewed everything digital in favour of fiery, sonic-charged, psyche-boogie rawk. It wasn't perfect, but it certainly earned, umm, a complimentary two bum-cheeks up from some kooks in a private box.

Compared to opening act Smoother, which came across as too smooth and forgettable for their own "whoo"-ing good, By Divine Rock proved that indie rock refuses to be taken standing still.

JAM! Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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