. : : February 19th, 2010 : : .
The Horseshoe Tavern had filled up by the start of Rae Spoon‘s opening set, quickly limiting my options for taping positions. At the Horseshoe, I usually get on the dance floor area directly in front of the stage and tape off the right speaker stacks. Wasn’t happening. No way I was getting in there.
So I took advantage of those heading to the bar between Olenka And The Autumn Lovers and Rae’s sets to position myself by the left stacks. Because the way the room is laid out, the left speakers are aimed away from the stage slightly, so to have the mics face them, I had to position my body in a awkward 45-degree angle from the stage and almost look over my shoulder to watch the festivities. The proximity of my fellow concert go-ers, the resultant body heat and the awkward taping positioning made for what might be the most physically uncomfortable show in memory. And that includes the shitty plastic seats at the Rogers Centre.
Taking the stage with six musicians backing her up, headliner Jenn Grant was never left wanting of back-up sound, but the venues mix had some difficulty keeping up. Likely due the breadth of musicians sharing the stage, the first few songs sounded pretty muddy. Once they got it right, though, the sound was firing on all cylinders. I definitely found a new sweet taping spot, and although my neck grew stiffer as the night grew old, the tape is far and away my best sounding to originate from the Horseshoe yet.
The large band was phenomenal, though, and frequently sounded like there were twice as many people on stage as there was. And a good thing there wasn’t! The stage was packed tightly as it was.
Jenn Grant’s songs themselves though, struggled early on to hold my attention, especially in the less than ideal environment. The restlessness was heightened by bouts of (more often than not) awkward, nervous rambling banter between songs. Which is weird, because she is such a charming performer! Listening back to the recording, the set was split into two halves: a down tempo first half, and an up-beat and energetic second half.
About half way through the set, Jenn’s band abandoned their instruments and accompanied her and her guitar as a backing chorus. This was, for me, the turning point of the event. Stripped down to voice and guitar, Jenn’s presence grew considerably and the strength of her voice was put on out on proper display.
After two stripped down songs, the band returned and jumped right into Getcha Good — a wise choice. The most up-beat and unabashedly pop song in the repertoire was the perfect way to transition back into the full band experience. Heightened by saxophone and trumpet, the song was a clear highlight. The following second half of the set was signficantly stronger, and inspired a handful of exuberant, care-free dancing around me. Jenn was, in my eyes, on a mission to redeem herself and succeeding admirably.
The band treated the crowd to the entirety of the new album, Honeymoon Punch, choice selections from the back catalogue and a Ron Sexsmith cover. By the end of the set, I had definitely come around. A more appropriately shuffled setlist and succinct banter would have gone a long way to make the set more engaging than it was, however.
02. Unique New York
05. All Year
06. Sailing By Silverships
07. White Horses
09. You’ll Go Far
10. Heart of Sticks
12. Let’s Get Started
14. Paradise Mountain
15. Getcha Good
16. Parliament of Owls
18. Baby’s Been Away
20. Walk Away
22. How I Met you
24. Oh My Heart
26. Stars and Waves
29. Dragonfly On Bay Street [Ron Sexsmith]
Thanks to Jenn Grant, @ricker, and the Horseshoe Tavern.