Posts Tagged ‘jack singer concert hall’

SLCR #338: Hawksley Workman & the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (April 13, 2019)

April 29, 2019

In Calgary again, visiting my grandma again, timed it to coincide with a show again. Baked her some bread again, sharpened her knives again, got my suitcase inspected again (for packing an electric knife sharpener again). You know the drill. I’m pretty sure I’ve done this exact opening before.

I could add “seeing Hawksley again” (third time since January) and “symphony show again” (following Steven Page, with Weird Al still to come this summer). Got some themes going on this year.

I met Colin for an early dinner at a downtown BBQ joint where he also goes to punk concerts. Some things about that sentence are odd and that’s okay. It was a bad day to eat early; lunch had come late because I hit up Record Store Day first and also had to stop at London Drugs and buy my grandma some printer ink. Calgary priorities. That said, though I wasn’t really hungry, dinner was pretty good, with the side of bourbon apples a particular standout.

After dinner, we walked over to Arts Commons for the show, which was in the Jack Singer Concert Hall. It was rush seating and I had a goal of getting there “earlyish, but not stupidly so” and I feel like we succeeded.

Rather than rushing to claim seats, we got drinks first. I’m not much of a drinker, nor a line-stander-inner, but they had a concoction called The Workman – how could I not? Besides, Colin handled the lining up and the buying all by himself. The drink, while tasty, demonstrated the effectiveness of branding. Fun theme drink I can talk about in a review? Sure! But call it what it is – namely, just Maker’s Mark and Coke – and I’d have passed. (Or maybe not; I’d already had those apples and Bourbon Day is always an option since I like themes so much).

Out of the lobby and into the hall itself, and we spent way too much time looping around trying to decide on seats. Paralyzed by choice, we were. With no ideal options, we wound up sitting centre-right, a little better than halfway to the back. I think that somewhere in this paragraph is a metaphor for the Alberta provincial election if I bothered to suss it out.

In an unusual move, Hawksley posted the full setlist on his Instagram before the concert began. Since I saw it before the show, you may as well get it before the review:

Goodbye to Radio (with orchestra)
A House or Maybe a Boat (with orchestra)
No Sissies
Autumn’s Here (with orchestra)
Safe and Sound
Oh You Delicate Heart (with orchestra)
Your Beauty Must be Rubbing Off
No More Named Johnny (with orchestra)
-intermission-
1983 (with orchestra)
Song for Sarah Jane (with orchestra)
Jealous of Your Cigarette
Paper Shoes
Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky (with orchestra)
Snowmobile
Smoke Baby
Battlefords (with orchestra)
-encore-
No Beginning, No End (with orchestra)

That’s a nice, career-spanning mix. As you can see, about half the songs were accompanied by the orchestra, and half were just Hawksley and Mr. Lonely. Honestly, I was initially a little disappointed in the number of songs that didn’t feature the symphony, since that was the big draw for me. I mean, I love Hawksley and was going to enjoy this either way, but this was the 24th time I’ve seen Hawksley in concert and the symphony songs promised to be something new and different.

Having said that, as seems to be the norm with these symphony shows, there weren’t a ton of surprises in the arrangements. The orchestra usually seems to be used to accompany the original song, rather than drastically change it. The new songs, 1983 and Battlefords, had arrangements by Sarah Slean, and both were nicely done. Hearing Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky – a song that I love but is also kind of ridiculous? – with the symphony was great, just because it made a weird song that much stranger. That said, Song for Sarah Jane was the surprise standout. On record, I’ve always found it kind of unsubstantial. Pretty, but not much to it. With the orchestra, though, the music swelled as the song went on and it became almost anthemic.

Hawksley is normally pretty emotive when he sings, and this was no exception. If anything, he was hamming it up more than usual. I’m sure part of it was having the symphony backing him up, and part of it was the size of the venue; apart from some folk festival shows (and those are outdoors, which have an entirely different vibe), this is easily the biggest place I’ve seen him play. He was also his usual chatty self, at least before the less-structured songs with just him and Lonely. He joked about his unseasonable song picks with Autumn’s Here and the Christmas tune A House or Maybe a Boat, and had introductions for other songs, including the same story about Snowmobile as he told last time in Regina.

Hawksley can be a bit of an oddball and I’m sure the symphony brought out some people who wouldn’t normally go to his concerts – like when we saw him with the Vinyl Cafe years ago. You can always spot those people because they’re the ones laughing at lyrics, hearing them for the first time. The older lady sitting to my right took incredible delight in some of the more risqué lines in songs like Jealous of Your Cigarette and especially Paper Shoes. We were also sitting near some diehards who knew all the words and sung along at every opportunity, most often during fan favourites like Smoke Baby, Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off, and Safe and Sound. They were also really good singers, which added nicely to the atmosphere in those parts.

All told, this was really great, with a new twist on a bunch of songs, a great performance, and a crowd that was super into everything. Not that it matters, because you likely saw Hawksley in the title, figured my feelings on the show were a foregone conclusion, and skipped this. And for those of you who didn’t, should have gone with your gut, I guess. Could have saved yourself a few minutes.

SLCR #277: The Last Waltz Remembered (April 5, 2017)

April 14, 2017

When I go to Calgary, I like unique concert experiences. It’s always good to see a band I like, but if I’m going to be in a bigger city anyway, I may as well go see something that isn’t going to come to Regina. And I’m pretty sure this all-star affair was a one-off.

You’re familiar with The Band, yes? And their farewell concert, the Last Waltz? Am I asking rhetorical questions so as to hide how little I actually know? Am I trying to avoid rewriting a Wikipedia article in a futile attempt to appear knowledgeable?

Replace Wikipedia with books and that was pretty much my entire university career, really.

Anyway, yes. Very famous farewell concert. 40 years ago. This show was to be a bunch of songs from that night, performed by Corb Lund, Amy Helm, Matt Andersen, and the Russell Broom House Band.

The show was at Jack Singer Concert Hall in Arts Commons. I’ve been there before but always took the train. This time, after an exceptionally lazy afternoon, I walked it. Took about 40 minutes. I wish I had something more exciting for you, but I like my walks to be uneventful, so really, I don’t.

The hall was mostly sold out. I was sitting in the first row of the mezzanine, far off to the right. After the Lyle Lovett/John Hyatt show, I was a bit concerned about my seating choice but this wasn’t really off ground level at all, so that was nice.

There was no opener, and the show got started right on time. This was my first time seeing both Andersen and Helm. Andersen had a bit of a rough start in the first song, Up On Cripple Creek, as he very clearly forgot the words to his part. As he tried to talk to Helm to figure out his spot, Corb jumped in and took over. Andersen seemed to have a good sense of humour about it – really, there’s no better option – and he redeemed himself later in the show.

Helm is the daughter of Levon Helm of The Band, a fact which became less relevant as the show went on. She may have been brought in for her name, but she has a fantastic voice and more than deserved her spot for that alone.

The first half of the show flew by. Like I hinted at, I’m not super familiar with The Last Waltz – I’ve never watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack album – but there were so many classic songs from that night that you probably know some of them. The first half included The Shape I’m In and Ophelia. Andersen, Helm, and Lund all got to perform some of their own material during the show, and during the first half, Lund played The Weight (dramatic pause) of the Gun. Possibly chosen solely so he could make that joke. The whoops from the crowd suggested that possibly Corb was the one who drew the audience.

During intermission, I could have gone for a bottle of water. However, I stopped to look at the merch table and as I did so, the lobby area filled up with an ungodly sea of humanity. Just making it back to my seat felt like a genuine achievement.

The second half was much the same as the first. Corb’s own song was This Is My Prairie, but he also did a fantastic version of Ian Tyson’s Four Small Winds. But the second half was mostly the Matt Andersen show, with a great version of Neil Young’s Helpless, followed by another song that drew a mid-set standing ovation.

The three singers would walk off stage for songs where they weren’t needed. Upon one return for Lund, someone yelled “CORB YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL,” to which Andersen simply replied “meh.” Perfectly timed.

Before the last song, Russell Broom introduced the house band, which was pretty sizeable. Including the singers, they maxed out at 11 people on stage, including a horn section and an organist who also played accordion when called for. It also turned out that the band included Chris Byrne of the Road Hammers, as well as Joey Landreth. This clarified things for me, as Landreth got to sing on a few songs and whenever he did, the folks sitting to my left were really excited.

They closed with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and came back for an encore of I Shall Be Released and The Weight, and it was over too soon. What a great show. Fantastic performances from the three singers, and the band killed it. Highest recommendation. I mean, you’ll never get to see this, but hypothetically.

SLCR #226: Bahamas (November 17, 2015)

November 22, 2015

I had really good intentions of having another go at writing this in bed last night, but yeah, fell asleep again. So now I am sitting up at the kitchen table, but in the interest of repeating past mistakes, I am once again overloading on chips and salsa. To further increase the degree of difficulty here, I am watching WWE Network on my iPad and typing this on my phone. I still have my Bluetooth keyboard, sure, but there’s an ongoing distraction and a wee little screen. So if this sucks, that’s why. Now I just need to think of an excuse for every other time.

While we’re talking about degrees of difficulty, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the walk to the C-Train was like a skating rink. I had gone out in the afternoon and the weather was wonderful. Two hours at home and I go to leave and the world had iced over. I took a fairly miserable looking selfie on the train – red cheeks, fogged glasses, snowy toque, the whole deal.

selfie

I didn’t consider staying home, though. I was pretty excited for this show. My original plan for the Calgary trip was to go a few weeks earlier, but that got bumped for the usual work-related reasons. (Did I mention I start my new job in three weeks? Did I mention I am looking forward to it?)

Really, though, the change was for the best. That week, there were no shows that really appealed to me. I could have seen Barenaked Ladies with Great Big Sea lead singer Alan Doyle opening, and that could have been a fun trip back in time to 1997 James’ favourites, but I really haven’t listened to much of anything from either band in years.

Anyway, a few slips and slides aside, the C-Train trip was uneventful. At least for me – there was an accident somewhere downtown so when I got on the train, I had a nice long sitdown before we slooooowly made our way. I didn’t hear anything about it on the news (and I am staying with my grandma, so I have seen a lot of local news) (also Jeopardy and Wheel, Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, and Chopped) so I am hoping nobody was hurt. The delay meant nothing to me since I was only going two stops anyway.

The Jack Singer Concert Hall is in the same complex – the Arts Commons – as the Big Secret Theatre where I saw Hawksley Workman’s The God That Comes a few years ago, as well as a number of other venues. It’s really easy to get to and just a great idea. I wish we had something like this in Regina.

I found my way in and took a look at the stuff table. There were your usual records, CDs, shirts, etc. – nothing new from John K. Samson, unfortunately – and there was also a selection of drawings used in Bahamas’ video for Bitter Memories. I bought one; a piece of original art seemed like a really neat souvenir. It’s a sparse pencil drawing of a guitarist who may or may not be Bahamas (I have never actually seen this video, which is what I should be watching right now instead of old wrestling). I hope that description suffices, as I will likely be too lazy to attach a picture here. Or not. Who knows? I’m watching wrestling and typing on a phone, I can’t think of logistics right now.

bahamas

I checked my coat (which I always hate doing, but it was pretty damp), took my drawing and found my spot – dead centre in the back row of the floor seating. Not bad for buying a ticket a week or two out. I don’t think the show was sold out, but it was close.

As I hinted at above, the opener was John K. Samson, the lead singer of the Weakerthans. Or “former” lead singer of the Weakerthans, I guess. Boo. But be that as it may, this ruled. He played a handful of Weakerthans songs (Plea from a Cat Named Virtute, Everything Must Go!, Reconstruction Site) and a few songs from his solo album (including Cruise Night), but most of his set was devoted to new songs. I was hopeful for one, but we got five or six and I was delighted. He only mentioned titles for two of those songs, but I had some guesses at the others: Winter Wheat; On the 21st Day; Fellow Traveler; Select All, Delete, and Post-Doc Blues. He didn’t mention a new album but I hope the new songs mean one is coming sooner rather than later.

If a big ol’ pile of new John K. songs wasn’t enough, he was also joined for about half his set by Jason Tait, Weakerthans drummer (ex-drummer) (boo) who has also been drumming for Bahamas of late. This was the best and I just wish it hadn’t been a 40-minute opening set. I could have easily watched another hour.

I don’t think I was in the majority, though. Before I left for Calgary, Mika said that Samson seemed like an odd choice to be opening for Bahamas. I disagreed – I mean, *I* like both of them, and who could disagree with me? – but the audience was very much Bahamas’ crowd. John K. had his fans, but there were little things – pauses after songs ended because people didn’t realize that he was done and it was time to applaud, or people giggling at lyrics that I don’t think of as funny. In that way, it reminded me of seeing Hawksley Workman perform as part of Stuart McLean’s Christmas show – there’s a very different crowd reaction than at one of his own shows, if that makes sense.

Brief intermission. I took a picture of the drawing I bought and texted it to some folks while simultaneously pondering how, exactly, I was going to get this thing home in the snow on the C-Train. (Answer: carefully. Tucked into my coat. Luckily, it was wrapped in plastic.)

Bahamas took the stage. I assume. Someone was up there, but they were in silhouette and fog. Playing Lost in the Light. A little on the nose, possibly, but I don’t care. It looked cool.

I have mentioned this problem before. In the age of the iPhone (and the iPod before it), I don’t know what songs are called. As far as I am concerned, the titles of most Bahamas songs start with “the one that goes like” and then I hum something. In the quest to give you a list of what he played (while still typing on my phone and watching wrestling on my iPad), I’m going to have to get my work phone involved so I can look up song titles. This is becoming a three-screen experience and it is getting ridiculous. I wonder if there’s any way if I can involve my Nintendo 3DS in this?

As I’m procrastinating looking up song titles, I will mention that he played a new song and asked us not to record it since it was a work in progress and may change a lot or may wind up discarded entirely. I will go one better and not describe it at all. I mention it only to point out that I got to hear it and you didn’t.

He talked a lot about the process of writing one song and going back and forth about how he loved it one day and hated it the next, and how it went through numerous different revisions. When he finally played the song, which turned out to be recent single Stronger Than That, he added back a chord that was excluded from the recorded version – a chord which he called the Golden Girls chord because it came out of nowhere, kind of like Blanche Devereaux. I do not entirely understand the logic but I am not about to decline a Golden Girls reference. And I am especially not going to decline Bahamas singing the Golden Girls theme and critiquing the lyrics (“You’re a pal and a confidant. Isn’t that a nice thing to say to someone?”). He also threatened to play the theme from Growing Pains but only made it one line in. I would have been perfectly fine with an entire show of Bahamas singing TV themes.

There was one really weird moment while Bahamas was talking. I don’t know if it was something he specifically said or what, but he was talking, and for a split second, his voice sounded just like what I hear when I hear my own recorded voice and it seriously creeped me out. For real – it made me uncomfortable like when I have to listen to a recording of myself. I have no idea how this happened – I have seen Bahamas numerous times and have never thought of anything like this, and I listened for it as the show went on and didn’t hear it again. It was just really odd.

I’d blame the sound system but the sound was excellent all night – remarkably so. The concert hall isn’t as ornate as some that I’ve seen but the sound was stellar for both Bahamas and Samson. Really, everything about this show was great, start to finish. I will use that wording as a loophole to exclude the fact that I juuuuuuust missed the train going home and had a 15-minute wait for the next one.

Okay, I finally broke out my work phone and here are some other songs I know he played: Bitter Memories; Can’t Take You With Me; All The Time; Southern Drawl; I Got You Babe. That is not many songs; and yet, he played many songs. Come hang out sometime and we’ll play Bahamas records and I’ll say “that one!” and then we can try to memorize what the song is called and it will be good times. Can we maybe go for donairs? I could go for one.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Blue Rodeo w/Terra Lightfoot (January 14)
• Whitehorse w/Andy Shauf and Emily Wells (January 22)
• Corb Lund (February 9)
• Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)