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Colleen Brown @ Dakota Tavern

. : : January 20th, 2012 : : .

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Kathleen Edwards blog post, with a unheard of two week vacation that would take me out of the country, I fully expected a flood of bands I love to perform shows in my favourite Toronto venues while I was away. So, yeah, I breathed a large sigh of relief when I saw that Colleen Brown HAD booked a headlining show in Toronto, finally, and it would be some three days after I got BACK in town.

The evening sun set early, and as it disappeared behind the horizon, it brought a sheet of light, fluffy snow down with it. Could there be a more perfect night to mill together in Toronto’s gorgeous Dakota Tavern? I couldn’t think of one.

After the transit snafu for Colleen’s first visit to the Dakota last November, I made sure to leave a wide breadth of time to arrive — especially with the inclement weather. But this time, buses and subways seemed to line up almost perfectly. I should have known something was up.

Sure enough, when I got to the venue, my left microphone stopped working. Again. Long-time blog readers will remember this was a problem I had in late 2010. Those doing the math can probably figure out that the one year limited warranty, therefore, expired three months ago. … Great.

Luckily, some frantic, heart-racing fiddling brought both channels back online, so I left the recorder on and refused to touch anything but RECORD once the band took the stage, just in case. Until I saw the battery meter start dropping quickly.

I wasn’t sure how long Colleen’s set would be. I haven’t seen her perform much more than half an hour before, but it’s also somewhat unusual to be privy to a headlining set. My heart raced again. Do I risk it, hope for the best and guarantee a left channel for the length of whatever I manage to get recorded? Or do I take the OTHER risk, switch the batteries, and perhaps lose the left channel again? UGH.

I decided it was better to get a full mono recording than a partial stereo recording, and took the plunge. I fumbled for my spare batteries and hurriedly discarded the old ones, knowing that the band would be taking the stage any minute. I powered my Edirol recorder back up and … sure enough, no left channel. I sighed, fiddled with the wire, removed the cable and replaced it, switched back and forth between mic and line-in jacks, straightened the cable and, just as it seemed nothing was going to work, the left channel came back online. I quickly (but oh, so carefully) put the recorder down on the arm of the chair beside me, and refused to touch it for the remainder of the show. The volume setting I’d estimated I’d need for the room would simply have to suffice.

And sure enough, minutes later, the band took the stage.

When I’d first arrived to the Dakota, there were a good number of people already drinking, chatting amicably, and awaiting the show. More than I expected to show up, really. By the time the band took the stage, that number had nearly doubled. Not quite a full house, mind you, but unquestionably a solid showing.

Colleen took the stage in a short red dress that was stunning and eye catching. In fact, it certainly would have enraptured the entire audience if the music hadn’t already successfully accomplished that.

Opening with Baby Blue Eyes, Colleen invited the crowd to “dance the night away with [her]”, but the typical reserved Toronto crowd kept their distance and limited their appreciation to between-song claps. Colleen was backed by a similar band that performed with her in the opening slot for Emm Gryner in the autumn (Michael Rault substituting Jared Craig on bass), and although I selfishly miss Colin Cripps, I daresay Colleen has never sounded so good or so full sounding. Steve Frise, Colleen’s new guitarist, is no Colin Cripps (to be fair, no one is), but brings his own, funky influence that more than holds up.

The rhythm section, rounded out by the wonderful Peter Hendrickson on drums, was steadfast but with a unique flavour and personality that rhythm sections sometimes run the risk of being without. Bryan Moyer‘s brass flourishes were the icing on the cake.

The setlist was lengthy, as previous established, but also full of surprises. Firstly, Foot In Heart was more or less ignored. With the exception of Boyfriend, popular live tracks Fantastic VoyageLove You Baby and Ain’t Got No Man were left at home. Secondly, a brand new, post-Dirt song was road tested. Tentatively titled Lead Me On, it’s a clear and distinct evolution from Dirt musically, even if the lyrics pre-date it. Lastly, the setlist was rounded out by Colleen and bassist Michael Rault switching instruments and performing one of Peter’s songs followed by two covers of Colleen’s “other” band, The Secretaries.

After nearly an hour of great music, including phenomenal, in-your-face versions of Happy Love Song and Good Girls, it was clear the night would have to come to a close. The band looked like they were having a blast, and the audience seemed to enjoy every moment of it, but The Dakota frequently double books shows back-to-back on high-traffic evenings. As the 7pm early evening audience, we would have to all be evacuated by 9pm for the second round of live bands.

So, perhaps a bit hesitantly, I stepped back out into cold, snowy winter night, but definitely a few degrees warmer than I was when I stepped into the Dakota Tavern that night. Maybe I can share a bit of that warmth with you, dear reader? Download this tape — in spite of the headaches getting it off the ground, it sounds fantastic.

01. Baby Blue Eyes
02. Boyfriend
03. [banter]
04. Happy Love Song
05. Strangers Know Better
06. [banter]
07. Really Just Need A Friend
08. [banter]
09. Ignorance Prayer
10. Lead Me On
11. [banter]
12. 7 Hours & 15 Days
13. [banter]
14. Good Girls
15. [banter]
16. Fight! Fight! Fight!
17. [banter]
18. I Wanna Love You [Michael Rault]
19. Highway To My Heart [The Secretaries]
20. [banter]
21. Show Me [The Secretaries]

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Happy Love Song (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]


Big thanks to Colleen Brown and her band and the Dakota Tavern for hosting us!

Published inLive Recordings

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