Colleen Brown @ Great Hall

. : : October 14th, 2010 : : .

Sorry for the long weeks of silence, musical friends. As outlined in other blog posts, I sent my recorder out for repairs it apparently didn’t need, and then had to consequently order new microphones. Decent stealth microphones aren’t something you can just pick up at any old Radio Shack, either.

I ordered them, opting for the more expensive Express Shipping, in an attempt to get them in time for the slew of shows in the middle of October. Unfortunately, they didn’t arrive in time for the first of many more to come. But I take solace in knowing that I am bouncing back with a favourite, Edmonton’s own Colleen Brown.

The lady hardly needs an introduction. After all, at the time of writing, she is featured on this blog more than any other artist. Not bad for someone that, until this past summer, I had never heard the first thing about. Obviously, I’m trying to change that.

I originally had tickets on this evening to see the middle of a three-show residency that The Dears are performing to preview their forth-coming album. Although the band sort of fell of my radar after their phenomenal album, No Cities Left, I was willing to give them another shot, especially since some key players from that tour have returned to the fold, promising a rocking show.

Unfortunately, Colleen’s much anticipated return to Toronto fell on the same day. I flirted with the possibility of dashing out following Colleen’s opening set and heading over to The Garrison to catch The Dears’ headlining performance. Any possibility of this was dashed when, day of the show, I went to the Ticketmaster site to check directions to Trinity St. Paul Centre only to discover the show was now being billed at The Great Hall — a venue I’d never heard of. How had this escaped my attention?! Thankfully, my obliviousness when it comes to directions has finally paid off in my favour. Unfortunately, the Great Hall is on the west side of the city, and The Garrison on the east. Sorry Murray Lightburn, Colleen Brown wins this round and Crash Test Dummies benefit from it.

Turns out that The Great Hall is a stone’s throw away from the great Drake Hotel. The Great Hall is also a misnomer — the place is pretty small, and although it is a ton brighter, it’s also a lot more…rustic looking (read: older and dustier). Also: seats. I got there before the doors were scheduled to open (8pm), so why was the room full and all the good seats taken? I guess probably because the tickets, aside from listing it at a different venue, also had a 7pm door time. I managed to snag a seat in the second row, but way off to the left. I was actually almost behind the left stack speakers. I wasn’t counting on the sound living up to the promise of the venue’s over-assuming name, either.

But it turned out the sound was pretty solid. It wasn’t without flaws — Colleen’s vocals were a bit too quite more often than not, and the overall sound was far too quiet. Every ringing cell phone, every camera flash, and every step the heavy-footed security guard took could be heard all too clearly. But equally clear was each instrument, so my complaints are minor. There was also an issue with a radio or cellphone conversation of some sort causing interference in the speakers, and you can actually hear a bit of the conversation on the recording, although it’s almost inaudible. If you really want to listen for it, check out the banter during track 12. Luckily, a gentleman in the front row got up to complain about it and it stopped quickly thereafter.

Colleen showed up with yet another all-new band. Being an acknowledged lover of Colin Cripps, I was a bit sad he didn’t flank Colleen, but with this new band — featuring Colleen, Ian Martin on guitar, and Steve Clark on an upright bass — even the familiar songs sounded fresh and different. That also may be the three-month break between Toronto shows speaking. The new configuration also allowed for a couple of brand new songs to sneak their way into the setlist.

The mostly older audience seemed to warm up to Colleen quickly, with several members even breaking out into unrestrained laughter during the line “You want boring sports games” from the track Ain’t Got No Man (To Have Problems With). And the level of applause seemed to escalate throughout her 45-minute set.

The recording itself? Well… not the best Colleen Brown tape by a long shot, but not bad, either! Because the mics are built into the recorder and the recorder was hidden from the near by security guard by being placed strategically in my shirt pocket, there may be a few instances of the shirt brushing up against the microphones. Also, there’s definitely some shuffling noises during Chasing Beautiful while I double check the recording levels. I actually erred a bit too much on the side of caution, as the venue was significantly quieter than I expected, so there’s quite a volume boost during the EQ process, which also allows for a teensy bit of hiss to seep through. As always, a sample is below.

01. [introduction]
02. Chasing Beautiful
03. Fantastic Feeling
04. Boyfriend
05. [banter]
06. Ain’t Got No Man (To Have Problems With)
07. [banter]
08. Baby Blue Eyes
09. [banter]
10. [unknown]
11. [banter]
12. Ignorance Prayer
13. [banter]
14. Really Just Need A Friend
15. Love You Baby
16. [banter]
17. Man, Woman and Child

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Ain’t Got No Man (To Have Problems With) (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Colleen Brown et al., the Crash Test Dummies, and The Great Hall for exceeding my unfairly low expectations.

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