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Emm Gryner @ Drake Underground

. : : July 27th, 2011 : : .

Ever since wowing me with her perform at Junofest ’11, Emm Gryner has spent much of her time in the studio putting together her forth-coming album, Northern Gospel.

Unable to bring her local fans into the studio to get a sneak peek, Emm did the next best thing, and tried to bring the studio to the fans. So the stage at the Drake Underground was significantly stripped down from the traditional band set-up I saw Emm perform at the Great Hall; accompanying her voice and piano was a long table whose every nook and cranny was filled with synths, samples, and do-dads with knobs, buttons, sliders, twisters and various other hibbity-jibbers. (Don’t bother Google-ing that last term, it’s as nonsensical as it sounds.) There was a couple of guitars and a bass that spent most of the night on their stands, and a couple of bass drums that were occasionally used in unison with the drum loops to an almost deafeningly loud effect, but for the most part, it was a mostly digital affair.

As such, this was a very different Emm Gryner than the one witnessed only four months previous. Even familiar songs, such as Ageless and Hello Aquarius were completely re-imagined and virtually unrecognizable in this incarnation.

In charge of the array of digital noise-makers was SHVRS, a pair of “brothers” (in the White Stripes‘ sense of the word), who spent of the most of the evening turned toward each other on opposing sides of the aforementioned table, allowing the audience only their profiles for much of the night. This wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t centre stage, with Emm shoved off to one side, or if watching people turn knobs and press buttons wasn’t so brain-numbingly boring. Not to say that SHVRS are bad at what they do — it’s really just that what they do isn’t terribly interesting when performed live.

Listening to the recording, however, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the songs could have perform as full-sounding and dynamic as they did any other way short of touting along a full orchestra. Regardless, it’s a bit depressing listening to songs, such as the great set-opener Star/Crossed, and know the only live instruments being played are the piano and the xylophone. The song, like many others, cresendos, crests and declines with beautiful precision, Emm’s powerful voice and well-crafted words carrying the songs adeptly, but are essentially fancified karaoke.

But would these songs have the same power and resonance if performed any other way?! Oh, the dilemma!

Luckily, as a passive listener of this recording (presumably having not attended this performance), you are spared the visual aspect of the show, which was the most underwhelming. If you could let go of the description detailed above, listen to the recording as a separate entity from the live performance it’s culled from and just appreciate the audio experience, you’ll find there’s a lot to like.

I still maintain the set’s highlights are the stripped down moments, such as a beautiful fulfilled request in Idaho, and the all-acoustic, infectious Ciao Monday (performed with Northern Gospel‘s recording engineer Joe Corcoran), but it’s still easy to get lost in the atmosphere provided by the layering of loops. I’ll concede that I’m a hopeless traditionalist when it comes to live performances, and a more lively, energetic performance by the SHVRS brothers just might have been able to sway me. As it stands, I left the beautiful Drake wishing for both more Live and Performance from this live performance.

The recording has turned out really well, and although it gets CRAZY bass-y at parts, know that I have EQ’ed it down significantly but left it at a level fairly representative of the live experience. Mids and Highs are crisp and clear, and over-all, a must-have recording for fans of Emm Gryner.

  1. Star/Crossed
  2. Stereochrome
  3. [banter]
  4. Serenade
  5. [banter]
  6. Atlas
  7. [banter]
  8. Almighty Love
  9. [banter]
  10. Idaho
  11. Gold Soul
  12. [banter]
  13. Match
  14. [banter]
  15. Ageless
  16. [banter]
  17. Wisdom Bus
  18. Empty Hole
  19. [banter]
  20. Hello Aquarius
  21. [encore]
  22. [banter]
  23. North
  24. Ciao Monday
  25. [banter]
  26. [new song]

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Star/Crossed (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]


Thanks to Emm Gryner, SHVRS, and the Drake Underground.

Published inLive Recordings

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