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Meaghan Smith @ Drake Underground

. : : July 26th, 2010 : : .

When Spring rolls around, you can usually count on a few big concert announcements that get you really jazzed for the summer season. This year, it was announcements that Roger Waters would come in September and play Pink Floyd‘s The Wall in its entirety. Paul McCartney was also coming to town, which is a big deal, whether he’s promoting a new album or not.

But where were all the important indie shows? Even Canadian Ryan Dahle, formally of Limblifter and Age of Electric, keeps teasing at Ontario dates, but hasn’t made it over since a show I regrettably missed last November. Ra Ra Riot would be making the trek up across the border, but opening at the Molson Ampitheatre for Dixie Chicks and City & Colour. Not really my scene. David Bazan and Rogue Wave won’t be here until September. It seemed to promise to be a bleak June and July for concert-going. That is until the Outlaws and Gunslingers NXNE show changed my life.

Being introduced to Colleen Brown was the greatest treat of the summer. She is as refreshing as a soft-serve ice cream cone at the drive in in the dead heat of a July day. But it was Meaghan Smith who reminded me yet again that there are plenty of diamonds to be found in the dead heat of a barren desert.

I guess it was a year ago, almost to the day, that I first came across Meaghan Smith — although I didn’t know it then. My brother and I took a rare trip out of the house together to see (500) Days Of Summer, a hip indie rom-com with Zooey Deschanel (who would probably be a huge celebrity crush if I still had celebrity crushes) and the underrated Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Oh, and a lot of The Smiths on the soundtrack, which is insta-cred. It turns out that Meaghan is also featured on the soundtrack, performing a cover of The Pixies‘ Here Comes Your Man.

I had little-to-no exposure to either the Pixies (I know! Ridiculous, right?) or Meaghan Smith, so although I remember enjoying the film’s soundtrack, even after racking my brain, I don’t remember her song specifically.

Fast-forward some three-hundred and sixty-five days later, and Colleen Brown tweets that she’ll be opening for Meaghan Smith. She could’ve been opening for Yoko Ono and a concert choir of kitchen spoon-players, and I’d be there, so I didn’t take much notice of Meaghan until a few days prior to the show when I visited the Drake Hotel‘s website to check up on the particulars (cost, door time, etc.). As the headlining act, Meaghan’s bio was featured and my eyes immediately landed on the little bit about her involvement in the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack. My interest piqued.

With an irregular work schedule, and a long commute from home to the downtown Toronto core, it’s not unusual for me to leave after seeing an opening act if I’m unfamiliar with the headliner — and if it wasn’t for the bio, the chances are strong I would have done just that. But I was intrigued. I decided NOT to check the MySpace of Facebooks of the internet for any pre-show exposure; I wanted to go in carte blanche and without expectations.

As it turns out, it was a wise decision. Meaghan’s voice oscillates between a sweet and quiet, twee-esque timbre, and a boisterous, jazzy bellow reminiscent of stage shows such as Chicago. Her live show is sparse — she is joined on stage by her husband and guitarist, Jason Mingo, an infrequently used sampler, and an even less infrequent vintage Omnichord. But Meaghan managed to fill the stage from corner to corner with her immense stage presence, both while performing and her amicable, girl-next-door between-song banter.

She even came across likable in spite of having to shoot down many, many requests from a vocal audience member for the Christmas-themed song, It Snowed Last Night. After politely responding that she doesn’t feel seasonable enough to perform the song, Meaghan was forced to concede that she didn’t have the proper samples with her to perform the song properly. To appease the clearly devoted fan, Meaghan even invited her to come on stage and play the Omnichord for the breakdown of a song (which I believe is called In Other Words – but I’m not yet familiar enough with Meaghan’s oeuvre to confirm). The fan’s insistence continued forthright, and Meaghan just smiled sweetly and promised instead to return in the winter and bring that song with her. A more than fair compromise, I’d say!

The sound at the Drake was impeccable, as always, and was the perfect showcase for Meaghan’s powerful voice. My recording, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as immaculate. In a stark contrast to the minimal performance from the band, the enthusiastic crowd was loud with between-song appreciation. When the crowd gets really excited, there is some slight clipping, but it never affects the music. Right at the start of the encore, I had to drop the volume down on the right channel significantly for several seconds.

Also, I was engaged in a brief conversation with Colleen Brown when Meaghan first took the stage, and by the time I got my recorder powered up and going, I’d already missed the first 30 to 45 seconds of her first song, If You Only Had A Heart. This is a shame, because this was a stand-out track that played on the harmony and basic thematic of The Wizard Of Oz‘s If I Only Had A Brain — appropriate, considering Meaghan was dressed in (almost) ruby slippers and a cute, square neck dress that was only missing the blue and white gingham Judy Garland made iconic.

Thankfully I stayed to capture the remainder of the set, however. Meaghan was another great diamond discovery, among the summer rough.

01. If You Only Had A Heart
02. [banter]
03. If You Asked Me
04. A Little Love
05. [banter]
06. Poor
07. Heartbroken
08. [banter]
09. Soft Touch
10. [banter]
11. In Other Words
12. [unknown]
13. [banter]
14. I Know
15. [banter]
16. You Got Out
17. [encore]
18. [banter]
19. 5 More Minutes

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You Got Out (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]


Thanks to Meaghan Smith, Jason Mingo, Colleen Brown and Colin Cripps and the beautiful Drake Hotel.

Published inLive Recordings

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