Kathleen Edwards @ Dakota Tavern

. : : August 28th, 2011 : : .

It’s safe to say that this blog has been built on the back of the success of my half dozen Kathleen Edwards concert recordings. I sometimes think that all the hits I get every day are from people who check my blog just in case they somehow missed a Kathleen Edwards show and want to see if they can download it.

Truthfully, it’s been just over a year since Kathleen Edwards played a last minute set at The Dakota Tavern right before going into the studio to work on her forth-coming and as-of-yet publicly untitled album. The album is more or less in the can, so it’s only fitting she returned to the scene of the crime (and one of her personal favourite haunts in Toronto) for a quick last-minute set before heading out on tour with Bon Iver.

Like last year’s set, the show was announced last minute on Facebook and Twitter — tickets only available at the door. I scrambled to switch shifts to make sure that I could get down to the venue in line well in advance and insure I could get into the tiny 125-person capacity venue.

As usual, I erred on the side of overly-cautious. I got to the venue a full two hours before doors opened, but there was already a group of a half dozen in line. One of the staff members of the tavern took pity on them and took their names, freeing them up to grab a bite to eat and wander around the area. Me? I was going to tough it out, so I perched next to the door and pulled out my trusty notebook to bide my time with some light reading.

We were finally inside and I made a beeline for my spot at the front right, as close to the speaker furthest from the noisy bar as possible. I was quickly joined by a dashing young lady named Gillian, and old friend / fellow Kathleen Edwards fan Steffan of  TurnItUp or TurnItOff Photography.

The hour before the show started flew by quickly with the aid of great, easy flowing conversation with both friends, new and old. As 9 o’clock rolled around, you could see the ever-growing audience encroaching forward, inching toward the stage. The electricity grew with each passing moment, but with another show scheduled to begin at 10:30, it seemed like time was quickly expiring before the Dakota would need to kick us out.

Kathleen took the stage at roughly quarter after, flanked by Jim Bryson and Gord Tough. Not wasting any time, the band broke into a great rendition of In State. What followed was a smattering of new songs — some even newer than he last performance at the Dakota — interspersed amongst old favourites that more or less kept the audience’s attention through the 70-minute set.

The set was one of the more uneven I’ve seen of Kathleen’s. New songs like Wapusk still seem out of place when juxtaposed amongst anthemic roots-rock songs such as Asking For Flowers‘ bluesy Run. New live favourite Change seemed to struggle to pick up as much momentum in the stripped down, semi-acoustic form as it does during the energetic electric performances of the song we’ve seen so far.

But these are comparatively minor quibbles next to set highlights, including an emotional Asking For Flowers, a piano-centered taken on Mercury, a bouncing rendition of 6 O’Clock News and a fun, extremely casual version of I Make The Dough…, which was originally abandoned after Kathleen burped into the mic, and was followed with in-song banter, and Kathleen distracting Jim by licking his neck during the solo.

As the Dakota shows usually are, the night seemed like an extended family affair. Kathleen made effort to catch the eye of much of the crowd up front, and Jim and Gord kept smiling and nodding at friends throughout the evening. The somewhat looseness of the performance is excusable in an environment that always felt less like a performance, and more like good friends having a party.

The sound at the Dakota, although a bit on the quiet side, was beautiful. Perhaps the best I’ve ever heard it. The trademark decorative Christmas lights need perhaps a dozen or so of the bulbs changed, but helped set the mood for the evening. The staff at the Dakota were all super friendly, and didn’t seem to even hurry to usher out the crowd, even when Kathleen’s set continued until 10:25. Wish I could say I felt bad for the line of people outside waiting for the tavern’s second show of the night, but every second squeezed out of a Kathleen Edwards show is a cherished one.

The recording sounds predictably brilliant. I think I picked up on one brief drop out between the songs towards the end, but is otherwise a great tape that will go a long way in helping KE fans bide their time until her new disc drops in early 2012.

  1. In State
  2. Empty Threat
  3. [banter]
  4. Wapusk
  5. Run
  6. [banter]
  7. 6 O’Clock News
  8. [banter]
  9. Soft Place To Land
  10. [banter]
  11. Feeling Yourself Disintegrate [Flaming Lips]
  12. Change
  13. I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory [abandoned]
  14. I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory
  15. Back To Me
  16. Mercury
  17. [encore]
  18. [banter]
  19. Asking For Flowers

[info.txt // flac fingerprint ]
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Empty Threat (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Kathleen, Jim, Gord, Steffan, Gillian, The Dakota Tavern and its staff for a picture perfect Sunday.

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