Before entering The Phoenix for another Kathleen Edwards performance, I had the opportunity to chat with a few people in line. I told the fans who hadn’t been to the Hamilton show the night before they were lucky for two specific reasons.
One, the sound quality at the Molson Canadian Studio in Hamilton was outstanding. Two, the absolutely emotionally charged performance from Kathleen could never be duplicated, and any attempt to live up to the prior night’s performance would only meet in disappointment.
I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t as right as I thought I’d be, either.
For the two opening numbers, the same two tracks that open her latest album, Voyageur, Empty Threat and Chameleon/Comedian, the sound was just about what I expected. A thudding, bass-heavy, nightclub mix that didn’t do the keyboards or guitars proper justice. But when Kathleen and band slowed things down with the title track from her previous album, Asking For Flowers, The Phoenix almost became a whole other room.
Granted, it still didn’t quite compare to The Studio — and no one would mistake it for The Dakota Tavern or The Drake Hotel, the two intimate venues the songs were road tested prior to recording — but The Phoenix had never sounded better.
Renewed clarity, tolerable volume, and crisp vocals: I thought I’d have to pinch myself! Was this the same venue I’d seen so many miserable sounding performances?! I could hardly believe myself.
Then there was the performance. It sure wasn’t the melancholy Kathleen on stage whom made a room full of grown men and women ball their eyes out the night before. No, this was the smiling, bouncy, energetic Kathleen most concert-goers have come to know and love.
The only tears visible in her eyes were of gratitude to the enthusiastic out-pouring of support from her (current) hometown crowd.
I wasn’t the only one whom noticed a difference. I had the opportunity to briefly speak with Kathleen’s touring mulch-instrumentalist and Jim Bryson stand-in, Daniel Ledwell, after the show. Daniel confirmed the enormous energy from the Toronto audience was felt on stage and helped fuel a sweaty, in-your-face rock and roll show that felt like a stark contrast to the performance the evening before.
Did it trump the performance in Hamilton? No, not necessarily. Was it a better show? I don’t know if I’d say that, either. But it was a very, very different show, in spite of a song-for-song replication of the set list.
Well, that is, until the final song of the encore. Instead of doing the solo cover of Our Town, Kathleen led the band through an awesome rendition of Voyageur‘s polarizing finale, For The Record.
Was it the same Kathleen that was choking back tears the night before, now running across the stage mid-song to playfully bite the arm of her bandmate? Who mock-sang the first verse to one of her songs, and then later laughed through/completely forgetting the lyrics to another? Who stopped songs mid-performance to banter with the crowd and/or her band? She was almost unrecognizable.
It was heart-warming to see such a different side of Kathleen in the span of 24-hours, and a bit of a sobering reminder that these idols on stage are human, too.
But then again, it’s that very humanity that make these songs such wonderful miracles, isn’t it?
01. Empty Threat
03. Asking For Flowers
05. Pink Champagne
06. Goodnight California
07. In State
10. Hockey Skates
12. House Full of Empty Rooms
13. Going To Hell
15. Back To Me [tease]
16. Back To Me
17. Soft Place To Land
18. 12 Bellevue [traditional]
20. Change The Sheets
22. 6 O’Clock News
24. September Gurls [Big Star]
26. For The Record
Love and appreciation to Kathleen Edwards, Hannah Georgas, Daniel Ledwell, Lyle Molzan, John Dinsmore, Gord Tough, The Phoenix Nightclub and its staff, and my new friends Doug and Cathy!