Concert Review: The Autumn Defense, November 9, Drake Underground

Toronto –  The Autumn Defense is best known as a side project for Wilco’s John Stirratt and Pat Sansone.  Of course, the truth is Sansone was in this band before he joined Wilco, so if you really wanted to stretch things, you could say Wilco is a side project for him … a really successful side project.  And most likely, these guys don’t care to think of their band as just another side project, something they alluded to when reminiscing about a show at the Horseshoe, where according to Stirratt, they played with “a Nickelback side project.”  “It was side project night,” he added, before going on to explain that they try to avoid the term “side project” … even for the Nickelback guy.  (Side note: a quick perusal of the internets did not reveal any evidence of any Nickelback side projects so i can only assume they must have been talking about Theory Of A Deadman, which is hilarious.  Sorry, TOAD, you’ll always be thought of as Nickelback lite.) 

But if we are going to label them as a side project, let’s examine them in relation to Wilco.  How do they compare?  Well, pretty favourably in that they don’t really sound like Wilco at all and are really doing their own separate thing.  First off, Wilco is clearly Jeff Tweedy’s show, whereas in this band Stirratt and Sansone share vocal and songwriting duties.  Secondly, unlike Wilco, these guys are all about the soft rock, a fact that was clearly evidenced by the second last song of their set, a cover of Bob Welch’s 1977 hit, “Sentimental Lady.”  Sansone introduced the song by saying, “Sing along if you know this song.  You may not think you know it, but then you’ll know you know it.”  And immediately after they started playing, I knew it … but I didn’t really know it.  I kind of remembered it in that hazy sort of way, but definitely didn’t know who sang it.  I saw Sansone after the show and had to ask him.  He was more than happy to tell me, going so far as to explain how it was originally a Fleetwood Mac song, recorded by them in 1972 when Welch was part of that band (the pre-Stevie Nicks/Lindsay Buckingham day) and that their version veers closer to the original version.  Here’s a video of their version of the song, recorded somewhere in Manchester.   

Of course the ’60s/’70s  vibe in their music goes much further than cover songs, permeating their entire catalogue.   Sansone used this fact to gently mock Stirratt at the end of one of his songs, singing a bit of Seals and Croft’s “Summer Breeze” to point out the resemblance.  In fact, Sansone and Stirratt seemed like pretty funny, amiable guys.  Aside from joking around on stage, they hung out at the merch table before and after the show (something they probably don’t do much at Wilco shows) and giving props to openers Sara Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion. 

Not bad for a “side project.”

The Autumn Defense – Every Day by smartleydunn

Posted on by Paul in Concerts