The Pointed Sticks

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At Richard’s on Richards on Saturday, January 6

As much as the return of the Pointed Sticks was a love-fest from start to finish, it took a while for the night to shift from great to flat-out magical. The tipping point was an unexpected one. Going into the show, a betting person would have expected one of the pioneering pop-punk band’s early singles to define the night. But as much as “Lies” and “What Do You Want Me to Do?” led to all-out rapture on the dance floor, it was “Part of the Noise” that made for what will be remembered as one of the year’s perfect concert moments. Released on the Sticks’ lone album, 1980’s Perfect Youth , the song closed out the band’s main set.

As with everything the Sticks played that night, “Part of the Noise” was delivered with razor-sharp pure-pop precision. What made the number so devastating was the way it ended. Hyper-caffeinated drummer Ian Tiles clambered out from behind his kit just as his bandmates were putting down their instruments. Led by singer Nick Jones, the five Sticks stood together at the front of the stage and belted out the song’s chorus, “It’s all just part of the noise to me.” They had plenty of help. As they filed off the stage, they were serenaded by the 550 sweaty fans crammed into a well-sold-out Dick’s on Dicks. Like all great rock ’n’ roll moments, it was totally spontaneous, the crowd picking up right where the band left off. The Pointed Sticks took 25 years to re-form for their entirely unexpected comeback. “Part of the Noise” made it worth the wait.

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of the evening’s emcee, Nardwuar the Human Serviette—who’d clearly had too much sugar before the show—the audience was well primed for the Sticks’ arrival. Acting like a kid who had swapped his Ritalin for a carton of Pixy Stix, the Nard got the capacity room revved up with trivia questions revolving around Vancouver’s punk-rock past. Even more amazing than the vintage Pointed Sticks promo posters and photos that he doled out for correct responses was the fact that all the 20-something hipsters in attendance seemed to know more about the early punk scene’s defining concerts—Rock Against Radiation, anyone?—than those who looked old enough to have been there back in the day.

For the first part of the night, Jones, Tiles, bassist Tony Bardach, keyboardist Gord Nicholl, and guitarist Bill Napier-Hemy looked shocked to be there. That was understandable. As has been well documented, the group was spurred to reunite by fans in Japan, who discovered the Sticks through reissues. Late last year, the Pointed Sticks played to packed houses in Tokyo, where audiences almost drowned them out singing along. For all the band’s initial trepidation, however, Vancouverites showed up equally ready to pay homage. Predictably, the punky classics “Somebody’s Mom” and “I’m Numb” detonated the mosh pit. There was also the odd revelation, including the rarity “Apologies” off the Sticks’ Sudden Death Records reissue, Waiting for the Real Thing .

When Napier-Hemy and Bardach nailed the difficult background harmonies on “Lies”, it was clear that—despite the band’s extended hiatus—there was no rust on the Pointed Sticks. For the encore, the group broke out the heavy artillery, with the unassailable power-popper “Marching Song” and a garage-tastic cover of the Sonics’ “The Witch”. The only thing that prevented a third encore was Jones admitting that the Sticks didn’t know any more songs. That was alright. It had been a quarter-century since Vancouver last heard the band play “The Real Thing”, which remains one of the greatest numbers our city’s music scene has ever produced. The night was enough of a stunner that we can only hope the Pointed Sticks don’t take that long to do it all over again.