. : : October 6th, 2011 : : .
I’d heard of Casey Shea before seeing him open for Wakey!Wakey! at the Drake Underground. If you’re a fan of ANY of the bands on the Family Records label, odds are fairly good you’re at least peripherally familiar with a good chunk of their roster. If nothing else, the label is phenomenal at cross-promotion. Bought the new Wakey!Wakey! LP? In your e-mail is a compilation album featuring bunch of great songs from Pearl and the Beard, Rosi Golan, Matt Singer, etc. etc.
But I digress. I’d heard of Casey Shea, and I’ve probably heard a handful of his songs on just such compilations. For whatever reason, though, the songs never stuck with me. That all changed after seeing him perform live.
I’ve been struggling with the best way to describe Casey Shea’s live performance, and the best I can come up with is he would be the product of a Jack Black and Hawksley Workman lovechild. His playful performance and banter was reminiscent of Hawksley’s easy charm, but amp’ed up to 11 with Jack Black caliber energy and enthusiasm.
The songs themselves run a bit of a gauntlet; the first two songs of the evening have a Paul McCartney-esque quality to them, including a trumpet solo. Of course, during a solo show, the trumpet solo was delivered vocally, sounding a bit more like an elephant than a trumpet, but it was effective and more than maybe even a bit cute.
Pretty Good Shape (For The Shape I’m In) is the best country song not performed by a country singer. The song managed to hit all the stereotypical notes, such as the done-wrong husband just laid off — and that’s only the first two lines of the song. The chorus of It Is What It Is is the best Foo Fighters single that Dave Grohl never got around to writing.
Maybe by now, you understand why I had such a difficult time coming up with an apt comparison for Casey Shea’s live performance. If not, keep in mind, the gauntlet mentioned above was less than half of the evening’s set list. The gentleman changes and evolves from song-to-song like extinction is nipping at his heels, and it’s an astonishingly fun thing to see happen organically right before your eyes.
Needless to say, Casey was not well-known to the Toronto crowd before this set. One of the audience members up front even asked, “who are you?”. So, when another audience member bragged about her friend already having his songs on her iPhone, he not only took the fan’s request (for a song he “like, never” plays), but invited her on the stage to sing it just to her. She was visibly embarrassed, and didn’t know just where to look or what expression to wear, but he still nailed a beautiful rendition of song (although he stopped in the middle to chastise the band playing the Drake Lounge upstairs for being too loud in a very Casey Shea sort-of way) to close out the night. I’m certain once the flush of initial embarrassment passes, she’ll recognize the experience as the cool once in a lifetime thing that it was.
Likewise, I think a room full of Wakey!Wakey! fans left recognizing what a great performer Casey Shea is, and Toronto would love to have him back again soon.
03. Oh Nancy!
04. Pretty Good Shape (For the Shape I’m In)
06. It Is What It Is
07. Good Man
11. The River Still
12. Wave of Walls
14. Roll Your Windows Down
Thanks to Casey Shea, Wakey!Wakey!, Family Records and The Drake Underground.