Archive for March, 2013

SLCR #186: The God That Comes (March 22, 2013)

March 25, 2013

This might be the most expensive show I’ve ever been to. I once spent $250 per person to see Simon & Garfunkel, but that was my mom’s money and at any rate, that show was cancelled due to “illness” (a symptom of which is an overabundance of good seats still available weeks after the on-sale date).

My ticket to The God That Comes, on the other hand, was only $40, but you know how they get you with the hidden fees. For example, I paid an extra $2 to have the ticket mailed to me, and an extra way-too-much to change my flight.

See, I knew that Hawksley Workman’s musical was coming to Calgary. And every spring, I spend five days or so in Calgary visiting my grandparents and burning off last year’s unused vacation days. Naturally, I had hoped these two events would overlap. When WestJet had a seat sale, and I still hadn’t heard about when the musical would run, I booked a week off in April and hoped for the best.

Being the hip, ever-connected, social-media-savvy dude that I am, I figured I’d hear about the Calgary dates as soon as they were available. As such, I Googled nothing. This would prove to be unwise, since the show dates had been available for months and my trip put me in good ol’ Cowtown two weeks late. I spent about a day bemoaning my fate before a burst of motivation encouraged me to FIX ALL THE THINGS and I sucked it up, paid WestJet’s reasonable rescheduling fee, ate the less reasonable difference in fares (did I mention that the seat sale had ended?), and looked forward to the show.

All told, this bit of stupidity cost me somewhere in the range of $200, not including the show ticket itself. I chalked it up to an expensive life lesson (“just payin’ the ol’ idiot tax”) and I was okay with it until actually writing the dollar value down and telling you fine people. I feel it is relevant to the story and needs to be noted for posterity, but Jesus Christ, I get irrationally mad when I forget about some grapes in the fridge and I have to throw away the bad ones.

But oh well, what’s done is done. And then I called my grandparents two weeks before the trip and my grandma wanted to know if I had anything planned for the Thursday night. I don’t need to tell you that was the night I had the ticket for, right? It wasn’t the first performance – there were two preview shows – but it WAS the official opening night. And now my aunt was in town for one night only and family was coming over. Sucked it up, fixed all the things, bought a ticket for Friday night. Another $42.

You will note the presence of the $2 fee to have the ticket mailed to me. I left for Calgary on Tuesday morning. A ticket-shaped envelope was in that day’s mail. The mail comes in the afternoon because OF COURSE IT DOES. I was prepared to suck up fix things yadda yadda but the nice box office lady I called assured me that I could show up with the original credit card and some photo ID and all would be well. I am pleased to report that this actually worked out. These are the benefits of not dealing with Ticketmaster.

The God That Comes was held at the Big Secret Theatre, which is not all that big and if it’s supposed to be a secret, they might want to consider taking down all the signs that point the way. The Theatre is part of the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts. I picked my ticket up at the box office for the Martha Cohen Theatre (which is also part of said oddly-capitalized CENTRE). The show was put on by the 2b theatre company (again with the capitalization) as part of the Enbridge playRites Festival of New Canadian Plays (“playRites” – somebody’s screwing with me), which is under the auspices of Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP). All of this is a long way of saying I have absolutely no idea who was really behind this. Possibly it took all of Alberta to stage this production. I do not know.

According to the website, the Big Secret Theatre seats 190 people. There were a number of small tables close to the stage; these were reserved for people who were ATP subscribers. There was some auditorium-type seating a bit further back (but still quite close – the theatre was pretty small) and a balcony which I never saw. There was a bit of confusion at first; When they let us in, one (usher? attendant? host?) said that we could sit in the auditorium seating if we weren’t at a table. When some of us did so, the other host said that we couldn’t. This seemed odd as there were twice as many people milling about as there were table seats. Anyway, pointless story short, they sorted everything out and eventually filled up the tables, the auditorium seating, and part of the balcony. I had an aisle seat in the second row, so I got to do lots of stand sit stand sit stand sit as people came and went.

In talking to people, it became clear that none of my Hawksley-fan friends knew what, exactly, The God That Comes actually was, whether it was a concert or a play and who all was involved. I’d read a bit about the show but wasn’t entirely sure myself. It turns out that it’s a one-act play entirely performed by Hawksley. There’s some talking, but it’s mostly sung. You’d be forgiven for thinking of it as a concert with the setlist known in advance. Hawksley plays all the instruments himself, though Mr. Lonely is credited (under that name, which is awesome) as the Sound Operator. I saw him after the show at the soundboard, but he was never on stage.

The play is the story of Bacchus, the god of wine and sex. (“He’s bringing sexy Bacchus” has already been used in reviews and I’m sad I didn’t get to it first.) People worship this god by, appropriately, getting drunk and boning en masse. The king does not approve of this, especially once his mother gets involved, so he has his soldiers bring the god to him. The god says “if you want to know what we’re doing, why don’t you dress up as a woman and go spy on us?” The king sees nothing wrong with this plan, so he gets all ladied up and heads off for the orgy. In the darkness, the writhing mob mistakes him for a wild animal and murders him. His own mother tears his head off.

That’s basically the whole story, minus a few minor details. Hawksley opens the show by explaining all this (hence the lack of a spoiler warning above), and then he spends the next 75 minutes or so telling it again through song. The prologue made following along a lot easier and was appreciated, at least by me. Maybe you are a mythology genius and don’t need the hand-holding?

The accompanying album, Songs From The God That Comes, was released on Tuesday. As the only way to buys a physical CD are to get one at these shows or online, I didn’t get a chance to hear it before going. I did listen to the samples on iTunes, and was decidedly optimistic. They were weird in a way that reminded me of the Hawksley of old, of his first album, For Him And The Girls, of the Hawksley that made me a fan.

That’s exactly what I got at this show, and it was amazing. The songs had the dramatic flair and strangeness and played with gender in the same way that Hawksley did on that first record. It’s a sound and style that Hawksley has strayed far from in more recent albums and it was great to hear it again. When he picked up two poles, I wanted to turn to the people near me and freak out. “He’s going to beat them against the ground and stomp and it’s going to be AWESOME” and it WAS. I haven’t seen him do that in concert in years!

There were lots of new additions too. There was a light show the likes of which I’ve never seen at a Hawksley show (with notable changes as the story progressed – if you ever see this and think “hey, that text looks blurry,” you’ll find out it’s for a reason). More interestingly, Hawksley played all the instruments but used looping pedals to create layers of sound – it’s something I’ve never seen him do before and he was able to really build the intensity, even though he’d already told you how the story went.

There’s only so much detail I want to go into. There are lots of surprising touches that you really should see and hear for yourself. This won’t be easy; it’s in Calgary for the next few weeks, and stints in Halifax and Toronto are planned, but if you’re not in one of those places, you’re out of luck for the time being. The CD will surely be a decent substitute, but without the lights and props and whatnot, it will be missing something. I’m hoping that he eventually releases a video.

I really only had two nits to pick about the evening. One was the length; 75 minutes just felt short. I know that it isn’t a concert and it’s not really fair to compare it to one, but I wouldn’t have said no to an encore with some classic Hawksley songs. And in a related (and somewhat contradictory) note, the last song, “They’ve Decided Not To Like Us,” didn’t really have anything to do with the story and felt tacked on. I liked the song when I first heard it at Hawksley’s Saskatoon show last year and I liked it tonight – but it didn’t quite fit. So there you go; my complaints are “I loved it and wanted more” and “yay, extra song.” I need to learn how to bitch better.

Right after the show, I said on Twitter that the show is a must-see if you’re any kind of fan of Hawksley Workman. If you’re not a fan, then I’m not so sure. I’ve told this story before, but the first time I heard For Him And The Girls, I didn’t like it at all. It was just too weird and I was immediately put off. Obviously, it grew on me (to the point that it’s one of my all-time favourite albums), but it took some time and multiple listens (I’ve been known to give that album as a gift and tell people that they need to listen to it at least twice before making up their minds on it). I can see this show having the same effect on some people. I’m not saying that non-fans shouldn’t go; just adjust your expectations and your weirdness tolerance levels accordingly.

As for me, I went back and caught the matinee the next day, and I didn’t have to change my flight to do it. If my grandpa has taught me anything, it’s that you should always average down.

Ben Folds Five: The Sound of the Life of the Mind (2012)

March 18, 2013

A quick scan of the KMA archives suggests that I haven’t posted an actual album review in two and a half years. It’s only fitting, then, that when I finally do write one up, it’s for an album that came out months ago. Of course, it’s also for a record that took months longer to get shipped to me than it should have, so I guess we’re all at fault here. Share the blame. Or at least my part of it.

To briefly recap the necessary history, Ben Folds Five (Ben Folds, Darren Jessee, and Robert Sledge) was together for roughly seven years before separating in 2000. They reunited for a one-off show in North Carolina in 2008 (one week before I was in the area for a wedding – boo!) but had otherwise gone their separate ways until late 2011 or so, when I first started hearing rumblings of a new album and tour.

Sure enough, in the spring of 2012, Ben Folds Five launched a campaign via MusicPledge (basically, it’s like Kickstarter, except… well, it’s exactly like Kickstarter) where fans could fund the recording of the new album. Rewards for backers ranged from MP3s to a custom version of the song Do It Anyway rewritten to be about you. At $2,500, that one was sadly out of my price range (this did not stop me from considering it, ever so briefly, but I did not Do It Anyway). Instead, I opted for a signed vinyl record (I’m not really into autographs if I didn’t get them personally, but I bought in early and initially, there was no unsigned vinyl option) and a CD. These came with a digital download as well.

Due to some sort of snafu, my copies of the record and CD were months late. I hadn’t even thought of it since I got my digital download as soon as it was available. The first time I realized that I was still owed my rewards was when I got a very apologetic email from Ben Folds Five’s manager, offering me a CD or a t-shirt as a make-good. I opted for the extra CD (which showed up before the CD and signed record I’d initially ordered), which I gave to a fellow BF5 fan.

At any rate, my CD and record finally showed up!


Isn’t that lovely? And as an added bonus, all people who contributed to the campaign were credited in the liner notes as Vice-President of Promotion. This was a running theme throughout the promotion of the record, with fans encouraged to use the hashtag #ImADamVP when tweeting about the record. I’m guessing that I bought in fairly early, given my early placement in the liner notes (two rows under Promotion):


So after all that, is the record any good? The first thing I note is that the album, as a whole, sounds more mature than earlier efforts. The first song, Erase Me, is a breakup song in the vein of 1997’s Song For The Dumped. It almost works as a sequel of sorts; while Song For The Dumped takes place immediately after “you dumped me on your front porch,” Erase Me is a few weeks removed from the split, after the singer’s ex “turned around in two weeks’ time, replaced me.” Erase Me doesn’t have the out-of-control anger of Dumped, but there might be even more bitterness.

Similarly, I have no reason to think that the Sara(h?) in the title track is the same Sara-spelled-without-an-H that Ben Folds introduced on 2001’s Rockin’ The Suburbs, but I like to think that she broke up with Zak, grew up some, got her shit together, and is looking forward to moving on with life. This song was written by Nick Hornby (who also collaborated with Folds on the album Lonely Avenue) and I highly doubt he set out to write a sequel to Zak & Sara but I am not about to let “facts” stop me.

I think the best song on the album is On Being Frank. I generally prefer the faster, catchier songs, but Ben Folds does have a knack for writing some nicely depressing songs when he sets his mind to it. This one is written from the perspective of Frank Sinatra’s long-time assistant, who finds himself directionless after Sinatra’s death:

I shook the hands 
Of mafia dons and presidents
And though they always smiled politely
With a measure of decorum
Still their eyes would scan beyond me
For a glimpse of something more
But now he’s gone
And now they’re gone

Frank doesn’t make good driving music and I can’t see it being a hit single – but then, I didn’t think I’d hear a ballad about a teenaged couple’s abortion on the radio either, so what do I know? Compared to Brick, “I don’t know where I might be going / I rode the wind; the wind stopped blowing” is pretty tame.

Now that we’ve had some nice grown-up songs, the chorus of the song after On Being Frank is “If you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall.” This is by far the silliest song on the record, and after dozens of listens, I’m still not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be about. It’s fun to sing along to, so I don’t really care. And like most songs on this album, there’s a hint of something darker lurking underneath: “Is it all in my mind? I could have sworn I saw it / I thought I was fine, ’til ‘fine’ was what I called it.”

The first single off the album is Do It Anyway, a song that Folds basically wrote on the spot in the middle of a live show. He played the original recording during an interview with Jian Ghomeshi on Q and it was amazing just how much of the song sprang to life fully formed (you can hear it about 14:45 into that video clip). Folds recorded it on his phone, I believe, and I’d pay $1.29 for the iTunes download, just because it makes for such a neat b-side. Most of the song is about facing and ignoring your fears, not letting “good” judgment keep you from great experiences (I’ve already talked about what a questionable decision it may have been to write and release that song, given that Folds may never again be allowed to wisely decline any offer). And much like Draw A Crowd, this is a fun number that takes a melancholy turn: “It’s gonna be so very hard to say and watch the trust and joy all drain from her innocent face, but you must do it anyway / It sucks, but do it anyway.”

Michael Praytor, Five Years Later is a about those people that you never quite shake from your life, even though you never do anything to keep them around. The titular Praytor comes back every five years, “in film, divorced, inspired, engaged, in chemo, born again, and fired.” He also showcases a Ben Folds trademark – the dude loves to use proper names in his songs, and if they ever-so-coincidentally rhyme with what he wants to write about, so much the better. I find this affectation grating in some of Folds’ weaker songs, but I am perfectly fine with it here.

There are also a handful of slower songs on this album that didn’t really stand out as much to me. None of them are bad; just not as noteworthy. The album closes with three straight, and when driving around, I find I skip past them to get to some of the faster songs. This isn’t really fair – I especially enjoy Hold That Thought when I actually listen to it – but so it goes.

I was concerned about the Five three would come up with for their first album in over a decade. They’ve made some of my favourite records and I didn’t want anything that would tarnish their legacy. I’ve often said that Ben Folds is a great songwriter who would benefit from occasionally having an editor. He’s written some of my most-loved songs, along with a handful that I just can’t stand. And while there’s nothing here that will displace my very favourite BF5 song (Philosophy, if you were wondering) (or indeed if you weren’t), The Sound of the Life of the Mind doesn’t have anything that I really don’t care for; we get one classic, and a number of solid additions to the band’s repertoire. Folds has said that the recording sessions left them with enough material for two more albums, and I’m looking forward to them.

SLCR #185: Tegan & Sara (March 4, 2013)

March 10, 2013

I can think of precisely nothing interesting for a backstory. I am not the biggest Tegan & Sara fan on Earth, but I like them well enough. Mika likes some of their songs and not others. The concert was announced and I didn’t buy tickets. Then an ad caught me at a weak moment and I bought tickets. When the day of the show rolled around, I half thought it wouldn’t happen because there had been a big ol’ blizzard the day before and T&S had to make it in from Edmonton, which is about an eight-hour drive (and, in my experience, longer when a good chunk of the roads are marked as “travel not recommended”). But I looked at their Twitter and their Twitter said they made it so the show was a go.

Between Sarah Slean last week and Tegan & Sara this week, I’m starting to feel slightly insecure about my masculinity in regards to my music choices. We’re off to see Leonard Cohen tomorrow, and while Cohen himself is surely manly, I’m not that going to his show says anything about me other than “wow, there’s a lot of grey around those temples.”

…and that’s all I had written as of Friday morning. Just before leaving work on Friday afternoon, I found out that Leonard Cohen’s show had been postponed until the end of April. Friday evening, I discovered that I would likely need to reschedule what day I went to Hawksley Workman’s musical. This, of course, is all my fault for prepping a half-dozen text files for upcoming reviews, all of which now need editing. In protest of this extra work, I put off this concert review until now. Now I need to get it done and I need to write a speech for Toastmasters on Wednesday and I need to spend all Tuesday in training for work so I’m pretty much well under the gun. Good job, me! At least I got that quality Bejeweled Blitz time in yesterday.

The last time I saw Tegan & Sara was in the basement of the Conexus Arts Centre. This time, they’d graduated to the main stage. I’d suggest that their fans got older and more appreciative of sitting down, but that was very much not the case. The crowd was very female and very young (Mika: “SO MANY LEGGINGS”) and I felt quite out of place. I was hoping I could cling onto Mika’s arm and get away with looking like a guy who’d been dragged there, but I don’t think anyone bought that, largely because I don’t think anyone gave the slightest care one way or the other.

When I bought the tickets, I bought the best available aisle seats. It turns out that Row L is number one and the best. There are no seats directly in front of the two seats on the end, so we didn’t have to do any of that stand-sit-stand-sit-stand-sit nonsense as other people came and went. Row L for Legroom (rejected name: “Row L for Lots of space for our legs”) was a great discovery and if I can’t get front row, I want Row L aisle seats. It’s a good thing I’ve done such a poor job of making friends in Regina; otherwise, I’d be afraid that someone might steal these seats on me.

The opening act was Diana. We were never sure if Diana was the singer’s name, the band’s name, or both. I suppose I could look now, but… y’know. They played some 80’s-sounding dancey pop (complete with drum machine and a saxophone solo) and it was fine enough. Not so much my thing, but then I don’t really listen to a lot of music that one could dance to. I did enjoy when they shilled for Tegan & Sara’s new record and either Tegan or Sara yelled “earn your keep!” from the side of the stage.

There has to be a smooth way to segue into how “I don’t really listen to a lot of music that one could dance to” and that “Tegan & Sara’s new record” is just that and how it hasn’t really been a hit with me so far, but that will do. Really, I’ve never been an album guy with Tegan & Sara. Give me some time with one single and I’ll usually grow to really like it, but listening to a whole album in one go just doesn’t do it for me. It all kinda blends together and I lose interest. They’re not the only band I’m like that with, but it feels more pronounced with this record. It was made to be poppier and dancier and I assume that’s why. I have read a bit on the internet about how this was more Sara’s album and most of my favourite T&S songs are ones that Tegan wrote. I haven’t done enough research to see if there was any truth whatsoever to this, though. It is a pretty rare album that makes me think “Yeah! Research!”

Tegan & Sara opened with two of their bigger singles, Back In Your Head and Walking With a Ghost. There were a handful of other older tracks during the show, including an encore medley which featured Speak Slow, You Wouldn’t Like Me, On Directing, Arrow, and others. (No sign of Hell, which is probably my favourite of their songs; oh well.) But most of the show was dedicated to their new record (if they didn’t play the whole thing, they played almost all of it), and I felt about the same watching it live as I did hearing the album: I didn’t dislike any of it, but none of the new songs really stood out either.

There were three non-musical highlights on this particular evening:

  1. This one guy who came to dance and didn’t care that nobody around him was dancing. He was super passionate about his dance mission; so much so that Tegan or Sara or whoever handles their Twitter account singled him out after the show.
  2. This one balding guy in the crowd who had a straight line of hair down the middle of his bald spot, giving his head the appearance of being a butt.
  3. Storytime! I enjoyed Sara talking about riding the Mindbender roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall (and Tegan wondering what, exactly, this had to do with Regina), but the best story – and indeed, the best part of the whole night – was the story about Tegan & Sara’s one and only solo show. Years ago (I think the year before I moved to Regina), Tegan & Sara were to perform at the Regina Folk Festival. However, a massive blackout hit the eastern part of North America, grounding flights. So when Tegan got to Regina (from Vancouver, I think), she found out that Sara wasn’t going to make it but everyone (meaning Sara, their mom, and their manager) encouraged her to play the show by herself. Tegan got as far as mentioning being picked up at the airport by a Folk Festival volunteer when someone yelled from the crowd, “that was me!” Tegan asked for proof, and the fan responded with more than enough details to confirm her identity. The volunteer talked about going to Walmart and picking up art supplies, then coming back to the Folk Festival where Tegan gave her Sara’s backstage pass. Tegan then lay down on some cardboard and the volunteer traced her (Sara: “For those that can’t hear, they basically made a Bristol board me and taped it to a mic stand”) and “when I traced between your legs, you said ‘do you know how many people want to be you right now?'” (Sara: “Sounds like her.”) and apparently Tegan threw up from nerves before doing the show, and she didn’t know Sara’s parts so the crowd sang them, and everything was great. Tegan seemed completely delighted by this story. The whole thing went over so well you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a rehearsed bit that happens at every show.

This makes it sound like I didn’t like the show, or at least the singing bits. This is not true! The day after the show, Dave asked me how it was and I said “it was a perfectly fine performance by a band I like well enough,” and I think that’s fair. There are shows where I’m blown away and there are shows I have no patience for. And then there are shows where I go “that was fine.”

Remember when these reviews used to be full of drunken adventures? Mostly other people’s drunken adventures, but still. They entertained. I clearly need to spend more time with drunks. This is an open invitation to any of my friends who haven’t got their shit together yet: come to shows with me.


  • The God That Comes (Thursday, March 21? Friday, March 22? Both?)
  • Michael Bernard Fitzgerald’s Birthday Spectacular (with Teddy Celebration, Mark Mills, Scenic Route to Alaska, and Cole Hruska – Saturday, March 23)
  • presumably some sort of Junofest stuff over Junos weekend, which I’ll combine with the review of the
  • JUNO Songwriters Circle (Sunday, April 21)
  • Leonard Cohen (Sunday, April 28)
  • They Might Be Giants (Saturday, June 1)

SLCR #184: Sarah Slean (February 22, 2013)

March 8, 2013

I was pretty sure this one wasn’t going to happen. Tickets had been on sale for weeks and I kept putting off buying them. There were just too many shows last year that we wound up skipping out on. Finally, Mark offered to pick up tickets for me and (the other) James. This was on a Friday. On Monday, I got the Artesian’s email newsletter which mentioned the show being sold out.

I suppose trying for suspense is a useless endeavour, given that I’m posting a review of the show? Fine. Mark came through, snagging us some tickets right before they ran out.

And when the day of the show rolled around, I was almost a little disappointed that he did. This is where I’d insert my usual speech about being a tired old man who just wants to sleep his life away if I thought you hadn’t heard it 50 times already. But I had yet to pay Mark for the ticket and I would have felt bad about standing him up, so off I went.

We met at the Freehouse. I was about 20 minutes late, leaving me no time to grab a beer before the show. Instead, I picked at Mark’s sweet potato fries (not a euphemism) while James hugged all the servers goodbye. Mark and James both live downtown and appear to be on a first-name basis with every server in every restaurant within walking distance of their respective dwellings. Or at least the attractive lady servers.

We walked the cold, windy block to the Artesian. Once inside, Mark immediately disappeared while James and I checked our coats. We stumbled blindly into the hall, which was already half full, to discover that somehow, Mark had secured himself a seat in the second row, and two seats for James and me in the very front row. I have no idea how he was able to pull this off. Did he have to kill a man? Or maybe three men? If so, what did he do with the bodies? How did nobody see? Or did he scare everyone into silence? He IS both intimidating and resourceful…

Anyway, point being, I wound up in the exact same seat that I had for the Steven Page show. I immediately texted Mary to brag about this. Mark and James, meanwhile, were busy making friends with the people sitting all around us. I have never been that outgoing and I suspect I never will be. I’m not sure if that’s something you’re born with or if you can train yourself. Is there a course I can take? Preferably online so I don’t have to talk to anyone?

Our opening act was Ian Kelly, a singer-songwriter type from Montreal; specifically, the same neighbourhood in Montreal where Mark’s girlfriend lives. Of COURSE James and Mark would find this out within seconds of talking to him (or someone working the stuff table, or someone who had heard of him, or some random person). Why wouldn’t they?

Kelly took the stage, thanked us for our applause, and promised a fine round of depressing songs. He only had a short set, a half-hour or so, and spent a fair bit of the time just chatting with the crowd, at least in part about the really good lasagna he’d had backstage. This line of conversation continued when we briefly met with him on our way out after the show. “It had sweet potatoes in it!”

note to self: sweet potatoes in 2013 concert reviews could be the new chicken fingers in 1998 concert reviews – think about ways to beat joke to death

I was unfamiliar with Ian Kelly’s music (this is a nice way of saying I had never heard of this guy before), but the standout song was I Would Have You, a witty number about jetski love, dreams of opening for Rush, and not becoming an asshole. I later bought the song on iTunes and Mika said “it sounds like your kind of song.” I choose to take that as a compliment and I also choose to not think too hard about that choice. At any rate, I found Ian Kelly pretty entertaining and he was the rare opening act who understayed his welcome. I’d make a point of going to see him if he came back.

Sarah Slean was touring in support of her newest record, a double album called Land & Sea. Specifically, she was touring in support of Sea, the more mellow, orchestral disc. To recreate the sound in a live setting, there were eight or nine people packed onto the Artesian’s small stage; among them, a few violinists, a stand-up bassist (meaning that he was playing the stand-up bass, not that he was forthright) (although I don’t know that he wasn’t), a drummer, a backing vocalist, and Slean herself on piano. Apparently on some shows, Slean included additional local musicians, but here, there was literally no place for them. As it was, when Slean would step away from her piano and trade places with her backup singer, it took some creative maneuvering to make it across the stage.

Whether at the piano or the microphone, Slean was directly right in front of where we were sitting. Mark had managed to secure the two best seats in the house for James and I. He seemed quite pleased with himself, and deservedly so. He also noted that we appeared to be the only men at the concert who hadn’t been dragged there. He might have been right with that one. The crowd was predominantly female, and this was never more obvious then when Slean said she was tired of wearing heels and kicked her shoes off, and the crowd responded with a high-pitched squeal of appreciation and understanding.

She had more of a sense of humour than I would have guessed. This should not be, considering I copied and pasted that sentence out of my review from the first time I saw her. That was almost eight years and 100 reviews ago and I’ve only seen her once more since then, so I suppose I should allow myself a little forgetfulness, but c’mon now. She sings pretty songs, that doesn’t mean she can’t make jokes.

Hey, I suppose you want to know how the songs went. They were good!


I had never picked up Land & Sea, so I was going into the show blind. I figured you guys were probably tired of me saying “I bought the album and had good intentions of listening to it before the show, but then I never did,” so I decided to just skip that whole “good intentions” part. Gotta mix things up, keep it fresh.

With that in mind, I liked all the new songs, though I don’t know that any one in particular really stood out for me. I’m boring and predictable; my favourites were the few songs I already knew (primarily, a handful of songs off Day One). I do gravitate to the familiar and comfortable and non-threatening, and you’re all like “dude, you were at a Sarah Slean show, could that be any less threatening?” and I’m all “did you ever notice that the first line of Pilgrim is ‘a little blood and vomit on the car seat’ because I never really thought about that before and judging from the crowd all giggling out their ‘ewww’s, I’m guessing they didn’t either” and you’re all “but is that really THREATENING, per se?” and I’m all like “no, imaginary person, but I started making up this conversation with you before I had an ending in mind” and so here we are.

All of which is a long-winded, occasionally confusing, and possibly poorly punctuated way of saying that I liked the show. I’ll not likely get to see those songs performed in that way again, so that was really cool. She usually seems to do shows by herself on piano or with a more traditional pop band. But here’s the thing – saying “liked” might indicate that I was the least satisfied customer in attendance. I mean, there were people there who were completely blown away by what they’d seen. I almost felt guilty for merely “liking.”

After the show, James grabbed Sarah’s setlist. Each musician left one behind, but she’d marked up hers with last-minute changes and notes. He promised to get me a print-quality picture or scan that I could use when I someday put all my concert reviews in a book. I don’t intend to ever change this paragraph – you’ll have to wait until then to know whether or not he came through. Give me a decade or two.

because I’m apparently a six-year-old

March 3, 2013

Every year, they do this thing at the mall downtown where several groups create sculptures out of canned goods. It’s done to raise awareness of hunger, and once it’s done, all the cans are donated to the Food Bank. All good stuff.

Here’s a picture of one of the sculptures, as seen from the second floor. It’s by the local gas company; it’s their flame logo with the words “Food 4 Energy” written in fruit strips.


I made a point of looking at it from above because this is what I saw when I first walked past it:



This was clearly worth my first non-concert-review post in a year or more.