SLCR #214: Joel Plaskett Emergency (May 15, 2015)

I knew this show would be really great, and it was. And I’m tempted to just stop here.

Here are some people and things that I dig. You already know I dig them:

  • Joel Plaskett
  • Mo Kenney
  • Darke Hall
  • concerts
  • any mixed and/or matched combination of the above

Liking things is great! But my stock in trade is disliking things, or at least making fun of things. Or as some people would call it, “generally being unpleasant to be around.” Being pleasant (or at least tolerable) and productive is hard, but my alternate option – namely, staring at a blank text file for the better part of a month – wasn’t getting the job done.

Having said that, I have so little to say about this show that at this point in writing this review, I just stopped and skipped ahead to write my Charley Pride review in its entirety instead. I had some things to say about that show and that day as a whole. But that is for another time; namely, it is for five minutes after I finish writing and posting this thing, so I best get a move on.

So what do you need to know? Well, Plaskett was touring in support of his newest album, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test. He’d debuted the title track (at least to my ears) at last year’s folk festival, and I really liked it. The new album is a good one, though I need to spend some more time with it. Thus far, I can safely recommend it if you like Joel’s previous work and also like swear words. There’s a marked increase; not overwhelming, but noticeable.

In fact, both Mo and Joel – which doesn’t quite rhyme well enough to bother repeating – have relatively new albums, and I’d seen both performers in concert within the past year. In that sense, this show was a bit of a re-run, as there wasn’t much that I hadn’t seen before. This is not a bad thing, since I loved both of those shows, but I WAS tempted to just copy and paste old reviews and see if anyone noticed. Mind you, there are enough repeating themes and turns of phrase in my reviews that most of you likely think I do that already.

In fact, I think copying and pasting would have been much better than this:

  • The ticket people said that I’d need my order number and photo ID to pick up my tickets, and I had no idea what my order number was, but I emailed them and they told me. And then they just checked my photo ID at the door anyway.
  • There was a food truck outside the venue. We didn’t get any food.
  • There was a lots of stuff at the stuff table, including tons of vinyl – Kenney’s newest album and most of Plaskett’s catalogue. Neither of us bought anything. I would have bought my favourite Plaskett album – Ashtray Rock – on vinyl, but I already had it on order from MapleMusic.
  • The host of the show was some local CBC person. At one point, she tried to talk, but her mic was turned off. Then the sound guy turned it on.

I am very tempted to rewrite the entire review so that the whole thing is comprised of the dullest bullet points imaginable.

Mo Kenney’s set was very similar to when I saw her last fall, though she played for a bit longer and managed to include the song Take Me Outside, which was sadly missing last time. I feel like it might have replaced the cover of Five Years, which is a fair trade-off in my books. I like both but Take Me Outside is one of my favourites of hers. She told a few of the same stories (such as the origin of the creature on the drum kit – though this version seemed to have been expanded a bit), but there were some fun unique moments interacting with the crowd. At one point, Kenney showed off her new guitar; so new that it didn’t even have a name yet. Someone from the crowd yelled out his suggestion – something along the lines of “Red Lucille.” Kenney replied with the most polite “that could work” which was so transparently a secret code for “no” that even she cracked up. She then went on to name the guitar “Foot,” which, why not?

She also plugged her new record. “Will you sign it?” asked a random person. “Absolutely,” said Mo, quickly adding “Oh… you meant right now” as the aforementioned person rushed the stage with a record and a Sharpie.

Also, she was wearing an “Italians Do It Better” shirt which I believe was from Christie’s Bakery in Saskatoon. “I am not Italian. And I have no knowledge of whether they do it better.”

If anything stood out from this set, it’s that the improvement in Kenney’s confidence and stage presence from the first time we saw her to now is amazing. I am delighted for her as she is a lovely human who writes and sings great songs and deserves to be well-known and successful. I am, however, a little fearful. This progression cannot be allowed to… um… progress unchecked. Otherwise, give her another few years and she’ll be leading cults.

Joel Plaskett is also a lovely human, but I’ve been a fan for long enough now that I’m just used to him being completely charming. Maybe that means I’m already in a cult? Whatever. The entertainment is top-notch and there’s a food truck on site. I’ve got no complaints.

Plaskett had much more time than he had at the Folk Festival, and he used it to play most of the tunes off the new album, as one would expect. There was about a 50/50 mix of new stuff and old favourites, which never vary all that much. Compared to the Folk Festival, we got the same Do Wa Diddy Diddy intro into Work Out Fine, but no Mamma Yamma Fashionable People – I don’t think we got Fashionable People at all, come to think of it, but most of the usuals were played.

As per usual, the older stuff got the best reactions, but there was one family there who was trying their damndest to balance everything out. I have never seen so many Joel Plaskett superfans in one group. All ages. Standing, dancing, singing along with every song, leaving notes on the stage, the whole shebang. I bought our tickets for this show back in December and I don’t remember what they cost, but at one point I was trying to figure out just how many people were part of this clan and whether the bill for the evening would have topped $1,000. Wouldn’t have been impossible. It was kind of remarkable, really.

So yes, a good time was had by all. Especially by those folks. It would be really hard to have a bad time at a Joel Plaskett show, and I should know. I once tried and ultimately couldn’t do it. The guy comes across as the nicest dude ever and writes catchy songs that are made to be sun along with. A++++ would go again – but you already knew that.

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