. : : February 10th, 2012 : : .
After Hannah Georgas‘ set, the tightly knit crowd began to unravel, so I quickly made my way towards the front and attempted to align myself in a position where I would be best parallel to one of the speaker stacks (and, hopefully, have a good view, too!). Finally with time and room, I pulled off my too-warm-for-inside leather jacket, and shoved it into my bag before pulling out my mics.
Between bands, the house lights had gone up, leaving me feeling a bit exposed, but I didn’t spy any security guards walking around, so I rather blatantly and openly began wiring myself up. Is there any non-obvious way to unbutton your shirt and shove some wires down it in the middle of a well-lit room of 500 or so people? … I can’t think of any.
With a prompt 8pm start time, I more than half expected a long wait of at least 45-minutes before Kathleen Edwards et al took the stage at The Studio. I guess I’m getting too used to going to venues that are more preoccupied with selling beer than putting on a good show; it was hardly half an hour later that the band took to the stage amidst thunderous applause.
The exuberance of the audience shouldn’t have come as a surprise — several fairly large pockets of the crowd started stomping, clapping and hollering in anticipation of Kathleen’s arrival only ten minutes after Hannah Georgas left the stage. I guess I’m just getting used to blase Toronto crowds that barely make half-hearted attempts at encore calls. You know you have a good crowd when the first thing Kathleen does is take to the mic to tell a particularly chatty fan to “settle the fuck down.”
Although a good-natured, humourous way to begin the night, the evening quickly took a sharp emotional turn. After all, as Kathleen explained, this was the first time she had returned to Hamilton since leaving the house she shared with her ex-husband, Colin Cripps. She had spent the hours before the show traversing the old haunts, and even visiting that old house. Reflecting on old and clearly painful memories made performing the bulk of the set culled from her latest disc, Voyageur, an exceptionally emotional roller coaster.
It wasn’t unusual to see Kathleen avert her eyes to the venue’s ceiling mid-song in an attempt to compose herself, or more frequently, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. An especially difficult moment was when an unusually soft spoken Kathleen dedicated House Full Of Empty Rooms to her “beautiful, beautiful friend and great love of [her] life, Colin Cripps […] with a really great, full heart”. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, on either side of the stage, and you don’t have to listen closely to hear the gentleman behind me sobbing softly by the song’s end.
That was far from the only emotional moment of the night, perhaps climaxing with the final song of the night, an improvisational cover of Our Town (at least, it wasn’t on the set list). Kathleen’s voice noticeably broke as she struggled to finish the song’s final verse, “Go on, I’ve got to kiss you goodbye / But I’ll hold to my lover ’cause my heart’s just died / Go on then and say goodbye / to our town”. The crowd broke out into a spontaneous, encouraging applause, but I’m more than half-convinced it was an attempt to keep themselves composed as much as it was for Kathleen.
The night wasn’t all tears and heartbreak, however. Bouncy takes on Mint and Sidecar helped lighten the mood, and the band clearly had a blast performing Big Star‘s September Gurls. A surprise appearance of 12 Bellevue (I hadn’t heard that one was being played on this tour, yet) was an exceptional personal highlight, while an epic, sprawling Goodnight California helped set the mood for the evening early on.
Still, I struggled with the possibility of NOT releasing this recording to the public. Standing on that stage, Kathleen literally poured every ounce of her heart out. It was sometimes difficult to watch, even more difficult to hear — as heartbreak so often is. I wondered if it isn’t a betrayal to share so intimate of a collection of moments with the masses, if that evening shouldn’t remained in the walls of that little room in Hamilton, but the performance was too remarkable to leave locked up and forgotten to the annals of time.
I hope this decision is the right one. I know the public airing of Kathleen’s grief has brought many listeners a bit of healing — or at least, a few moments of respite. Hopefully, this recording accomplishes just that as well; but be forewarned: there’s not a romantic amongst you whom shall listen to this tape end-to-end with a dry eye.
02. Empty Threat
04. Asking For Flowers
06. Pink Champagne
07. Goodnight California
08. In State
> [various covers] [tease]
11. Hockey Skates
13. House Full of Empty Rooms
14. Going To Hell
16. Back To Me
17. Soft Place To Land
18. 12 Bellevue [traditional]
19. Change The Sheets
22. 6 O’Clock News
23. September Gurls [Big Star]
25. Our Town [Kate Rusby]
Extra special thanks to Kathleen Edwards for an amazing, brilliant performance.