. : : December 7th, 2011 : : .
Time for the seasonable blog updates to come in, folks! First, I started off with my “re-gift” of a CBC Radio-sourced Colleen Brown recording, which leads into my next update quite nicely.
You see, it was Colleen Brown who introduced me to the inimitable Meaghan Smith. Colleen opened for Meaghan about a year and a half ago and, initially, I was a little vexed at the higher ticket price necessitated by the draw of a headliner I’d never heard of. Of course, that spite melted away the second the stunning beautiful took the stage and started singing the wonderful Wizard of Oz-inspired If You Only Had A Heart.
Since, I’ve seen Meaghan Smith almost a half dozen times. Sometimes I think that I have her between song banter memorized better than she does. That’s not to say she doesn’t occasionally throw a curve ball now and then, but I like to think I know my way around a standard Meaghan Smith show.
But this would be no standard Meaghan Smith show. Indeed, on the back of a new “holiday”-themed album, in and of itself an expansion of a previously digitally released EP, Meaghan and her hus-band Jason Mingo took the carols on the road.
Call me a traditionalist and/or call me a Grinch, but I hate digital albums and I’m far from the biggest fan of standard Christmas music, so I was all but oblivious to Meaghan’s Christmas work. I probably couldn’t have hummed a single phrase of her big original hit song, title track It Snowed, if a gun was held to my head and a bomb strapped to my chest.
The physical, expanded release at least piqued my curiosity. On the strength of her phenomenal debut album (and it’s not just me saying that; she won 2011’s Best New Artist Juno!) alone, I was prepared to buy anything she put out. Unluckily, any chance I had to peruse CD and book stores, the album was already sold out.
So, I went into the Meaghan Smith holiday show pretty fresh.
Luckily, Meaghan mixed up the holiday tunes with some favourites from her oeuvre and when the Christmas songs came, they were rarely what you would consider traditional. For example, the evening’s opening song was a beautiful take on Dream A Little Dream Of Me that was lightly re-purposed for the season (ie. “Birds singing in the Christmas tree” and “Sweet dreams ’til Santa finds you”) and her original, Christmas Kiss, which has Meaghan eschewing a list of traditional modern Christmas gifts (including a Les Paul guitar!) for a simple kiss.
Although I may be risking a stocking of coal to publicly admit it, the non-season-specific songs were the real highlights of the night, including the always powerful If You Asked Me, but that’s not to say the Christmas songs didn’t shine alongside them. Zat U Santa Claus, a little-known Louis Armstrong song that Meaghan admitted reminded her of being scared of Santa as a child, but both the lyrics and delivery seem to indicate something altogether different — a carnal sort of familiarity that’s unusual for the doe-eyed performer, but added a sultry, sexy twist to her booming, jazz-infused voice.
Also, a 90’s hip-hop influenced beat replaced the familiar rum-pum-pum-pum-pum’s in the Little Drummer Boy took some getting used to, but worked well after one adjusted to the big change. Breakable, perhaps my favourite of the new songs and lead track off It Snowed, was unsurprisingly the least Christmas-y.
After finishing up the not-quite-hour-long main set, the audience barely clapped before an uncomfortable silence settled in that seemed to last for minutes. After a hesitant delay, the sound guy starting pumping music through the PA and turned on the house lights.
Toronto audiences seem to have forgotten that, to receive an encore performance, it’s customary to given an encore call. This is the third or fourth such instance I’ve seen of this happening this autumn alone, and it hasn’t stopped being embarrassing. Just to be sure, I snuck a peek at the set list, and yes — there were a couple of songs set for the encore.
Regardless, Meaghan came out and met everyone after the show with great, big warm smiles, but I think the crowd at the Rivoli didn’t give the gift Meaghan and Jason really deserved this holiday season: a solid, unified display of appreciation for their hard work and talent.
Sadly, the lack of encore call wasn’t the only disappointment of the night. The Rivoli has, in my experience, never sounded better than it did on this night — but a loose connector in my Edirol recorder means that this entire recording is marred by bursts of static every time I check the levels, the time, the status of the recording or otherwise make the slightest bit of movement. For the stiller moments, this recording sounds primo — but for the most part, it should only be reserved for die hard fans and the extremely patient.
Luckily, it looks like I will get another chance, as Meaghan has announced a lunch time in-store performance at a downtown Indigo book store tomorrow! I will do the best I can and report back promptly! Until then…
01. Dream A Little Dream Of Me [Andre/Schwandt]
02. Christmas Kiss
04. If You Asked Me
06. I Know
08. Zat You Santa Claus
10. A Piece For You
12. The Little Drummer Boy [trad’l]
13. In The Bleak Mid-Winter [Charlie Landsborough]
14. Christmas Time Is Here
16. Silver Bells [trad’l]
20. It Snowed
Special thanks to Meaghan Smith, Jason Mingo and the Rivoli for a fun Holiday-themed evening.