. : : December 4th, 2010 : : .
Colleen Brown, Danny Michel, Royal Wood, Amelia Curran — all these artists have one thing in common.
Well, OK, they probably have a few things in common. But there’s one thing in particular I’m concerned with for the purpose of this blog entry. That is, each was a new discovery for me at this past spring’s NXNE Six Shooter Records‘ Gunslingers and Outlaws showcase at Lee’s Palace. I’ve also made a concentrated effort to see each perform (at least) once on their own, abandoned by the sheer force of talent the sum of their collective peers communally generated. I was lucky enough to achieve my goal before the close of the year.
Amelia Curran was the artist that I was harshest on in my review of that night, and she also has earned the unsavoury position of the last act I’ve been able to catch on his or her own, so there was a lot of talent that she would inevitably be compared to. However, she did have a couple of things on her side, starting with the venue. Glenn Gould Studio, in the heart of the Canadian Broadcasting Company headquarters in downtown Toronto, was a gorgeous room with beautiful acoustics when I saw Danny Michel perform some six weeks prior. Also, a handful of her album tracks have gotten repeated plays on my iPod, and showed me exactly what I expected all along. That is to say, in her element and with a dash of comfort and ounce of increased confidence, Amelia could have easily stolen the NXNE showcase, and is unquestionably worthy of her Juno award for Album Of The Year (Roots / Traditional: Solo).
So, I left my house with renewed and yet slightly reigned-in optimism. I made the unusual decision to set up my mics and gear on the subway over. Thought it might be easier to do in the plain wide open than wait until I was in the venue and try to sneak it covertly. I don’t know what prompted this decision — but it turned out surprisingly favourably. The studio, although admitting ticket holders into the lobby, hadn’t actually opened up the theatre doors. A pool of concert-goers begin to quickly amass, and it wasn’t until about 10 minutes to 8 that we were let in.the seats were quickly filled, and I struggled still to do my last minute set-ups and tweaks before the set started. I over estimated the room’s volume significantly, and had to literally double my levels on the fly. Luckily, before the first note was plucked, I was ready with all systems go. Lucky, because it would have been a shame to be distracted for even a minute of the set.
Unlike my previous visit to the studio, in which Danny Michel filled the stage with a myriad of musicians, Amelia kept it surprisingly intimate. With the multitude of accordians, banjos, percussion, etc. featured on her countless-award-winning album, Hunter, Hunter, the absolute last thing I expected to see on stage was two microphones, two guitars, and two small, clothed tables, each holding up a bottle of water. But unlike David Usher‘s intimate, acoustic performance the night before at the Drake Underground, Amelia’s set was consistent. No, why stop there? It was consistently great.
Amelia may have only been accompanied only by multi-instrumentalist Phil Sedore, but the man’s guitar stylings are so fierce, you were barely left with any chance to catch your breath, let alone miss a rhythm section. Amelia seemed much more comfortable performing her songs with a familiar bandmate (Phil not only recorded, but also performed on her debut album, War Brides) than she did at the NXNE set, but she wasn’t without visible nerves. She stumbled and stuttered noticeably as she amicably told endearing stories between virtually every song, but in a lovable, careless, hanging around your living room blurting out recollections to friends at a gathering.
Phil’s phenomenal playing always seemed to threaten to steal attention from Amelia’s warm voice, but never followed through. Rather, it was a perfect compliment, and the two came together in harmonious unison. The sound in the venue was incredibly impeccable, the room is the epitome of an aural orgasm. The only complaint to be had was it is sooooo quiet (I literally had to double the recording levels on the mic — and they were set for an acoustic set at the Drake!), you could literally hear every cough and nearby whisper in the room. So much so that at one point, mid-song, Amelia actually stopped to tell people not to be ashamed if they need to cough. Should the performer really be able to hear coughs coming from the back of the room? But a small price to pay for sound so pristine.
The recording turned out pretty well, although a bit unbalanced towards the high-end frequencies without a low-end rhythm section to bring it back down. Because the sound was exceptionally quiet, the appreciative audience’s clapping creating LARGE spikes on the recording. In order to make the, you know, actual music audible, I had to compress the clapping significantly. Between song whistles clip, but luckily, the recording is otherwise very nice and well-worth a download. A great concert to close out 2010, a pleasant surprise and reminder of why everyone deserves a second chance.
01. Scattered & Small
03. Hands on a Grain of Sand
04. Tiny Glass Houses
06. The Wrecking Ball
08. Ah Me
10. Bye Bye Montreal
12. The Dozens
13. The Mistress
16. You Won’t Find Me
20. Love’s Grave
22. Mad World Outlive Me
24. In A Town (200 Days)
26. Everything I’ve Got To Give
29. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye [Leonard Cohen]
31. Last Call
Thanks to Amelia Curran, Phil Sedore, Glenn Gould Studio and the CBC..