Every Record I Own - Day 256: Constantines Shine A Light
My old indie rock band Roy did a three-week tour with The Weakerthans and Constantines back in 2003. We did not deserve the honor. Weakerthans had just released their venerated third album Reconstruction Site and Constantines were just a little buzz band with a new record on Sub Pop. I was a fan of Weakerthans on the basis of their sophomore album Left & Leaving but I knew very little of Constantines. But by the end of the first show, my allegiance went with the Toronto quintet.
Over the course of those three weeks, I never saw Constantines play the same set twice. Every night featured a few key songs off their new album Shine A Light (the title track, “Insectivora”, “Nighttime/Anytime”, etc.) but the rest of their set was a rotating mix of songs from their debut album and the Modern Sinner Nervous Man EP. They weren’t the headliner, but the spell they cast over the room every night put them in total control of the evening. Singer Bryan Webb reminded me of Bob Dylan in both his sung/spoken delivery but also in his ability to exude this weary, road-tested, life-rich persona on stage. It was a humbling experience.
Fifteen years later, songs like “On To You” and “Young Lions” still transport me back to those times. I’m 26 again—broke, getting drunk before shows, struggling with the need to make music while grappling with the reality that it was driving me deeper into debt, but feeling sustained by the still-new opportunity to put out records and go on tour. I feel down-and-out but inspired and hopeful.
This is often considered Constantines greatest record, and while I would never negate its quality or impact, I think some of that collective preference stems from nostalgia. Maybe we all felt a little fucked and lost in 2003, and Shine A Light did just what the title implied.