SLCR #174: Greg MacPherson (September 14, 2012)

This was the kind of show that I just love – you go in with high expectations and they’re blown away.

I didn’t love only finding out about this show that morning. The Artful Dodger is a new venue and I haven’t yet gotten into the habit of checking their website or Facebook for upcoming shows. Luckily, the local indie paper’s website had my back. I assume the paper itself would have too, but reading one whole newspaper a week is hard, you guys.

Because of the last-minute discovery, I had to make the call – did we dare go out two evenings in a row? Sure, Friday isn’t a work night, but on the other hand, we’re old and lazy. Knowing that I’d likely want to wimp out if I went home after work, I made the call to buy tickets online and force our hand.

I love how I make “sitting on my ass listening to music” sound so much like hard work. No wonder I never learned how to actually play an instrument.

Mika met me downtown after work and we dined on the finest food court fare. I know how to treat a lady. (Also, I made her pay for her own.)

This mall trip was the best because the old lady who sounds like Carol Channing was back working the watch repair kiosk at The Bay. I hadn’t seen her there in months and was concerned that she’d retired. But no, she was there and I was so delighted that I made Mika replace her home security keyfob battery even though it wasn’t yet dead, just so we could talk to Carol Channing. (I made Mika pay for this too.)

Hey, I did pay for her ticket to the show. And I bought her a beer when we got there. Which is only fair, given that Greg MacPherson isn’t really her thing and she was only going to be nice.

Like I said, the Artful Dodger is a new venue – so new that it looks like they still have to finish up a few things. There looked to be some light fixtures that still needed to be installed, and the evening’s menu (beer, wine, pop, and wings) was a bit lacking. But it’s still very nice so far, with several rows of raised padded benches in a semi-circle in front of the stage. Between standing and seating areas, I bet you could fit 150 people in the place for a show before it really felt overcrowded.

By my count, there were probably about 75 people there for Greg MacPherson (with the standard caveat that I am terrible at estimating these sorts of things). This doesn’t sound like many, but we were the first two people to arrive and for a while, I was concerned that we’d be the only two. Depending on where you looked, it was either doors at 7:30, or doors at 7:00 and the show at 7:30. We got there at 7:15 which was probably too early, but on the other hand, we got personally greeted by Greg in the middle of his “extended soundcheck.” It was almost like having a private concert, albeit one with monotonous guitar and nonsensical lyrics.

Among the attendees were the couple who lived down the hall from me in the apartment. I used to see them at shows all the time, but it’s probably been over a year now. We briefly got caught up, which was way funnier than it should have been for reasons I probably shouldn’t put online. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you. It’s a shame that these reviews have bitten me in the ass a half-dozen times (deservedly so, I might add) because I’m leaving out the best part.

Greg MacPherson started around 8:30 and like I said, this just blew me away. I’d seen him twice before – once at the 2004 Regina Folk Festival and opening for Hawksley Workman in Winnipeg in 2009 – but this show was so much better than either of those. It wasn’t a full band – just Greg on guitar and Rob Gardiner on drums – but they didn’t need anyone else. Greg’s an incredibly talented songwriter and we got a nice mix of songs from his earliest releases to new stuff that hasn’t made it onto a record yet.

The show really kicked into high gear with First Class, which might be my favourite song of his. He then began taking audience requests, and played most of them. Folks called out for Slow Stroke, Bankrobber, and Company Store, which was nice, because it spared me from having to do so. We got two out of those three, which is pretty good, since Greg remarked that those were the hardest ones to play. Another request was for Heatwave; this wasn’t a song I’d been familiar with, but Greg seemed really pleased that someone would ask for it and told us that he never played that one.

Before the last song, someone else yelled for Company Store. Greg explained that the song was really difficult for him to play because it was a true story; he’d written it for his grandparents and he played it whenever he was out east (he was born in the Maritimes) and it always broke him up, and… “well, I can’t NOT play it after building it up like that.” After warning us not to clap along because it might mess him up, he tore into Company Store for what he said was the first time in over a year. Absolutely intense and absolutely sensational. It put the show over the top from great to awesome.

On the way out, I stopped by the stuff table to pick up one of Greg’s records on vinyl. I shouldn’t take such delight in buying the last one that they had, but I’m a jerk like that. A great show and a great day – and to think, I’d have been satisfied just by spotting the watch-repair lady.

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