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Songs Are Tattoos – Joni Mitchell Tribute @ Hugh’s Room

. : : March 3rd, 2012 : : .

I had almost completely forgotten about Songs Are Tattoos: A Joni Mitchell Tribute, happening at Hugh’s Room in Toronto and featuring HaterHigh.com favourite Colleen Brown until I received a text message from Ms. Brown herself, inviting me out.

I knew it was happening, but for some reason the date didn’t get saved in my phone’s agenda, and in the recesses of my memory, it was slated for LATE March. When it popped up only a couple of days into the month, I was shocked, but rushed into the shower and onto the subway. I was going to be cutting it close, but any chance to see Colleen is a chance I’ll take.

When I arrived at the venue, it was only some twenty minutes to show time, and the room was packed. How best to describe Hugh’s Room? You know in the movies when they’re in a jazz club, and the room is littered with little tables that people talk over with a stage in one far corner very few people are paying attention to? It’s a lot like that, except much better lit and with an (mostly) attentive audience. So, maybe not like that at all? Anyway, more of a restaurant than a typical Toronto concert venue, and the tables were all long sold out.

Standing room at the back was offered to late comers, but I snuck up closer and found a spot on the stairs by the soundboard. To try and appease the people who, you know, showed up on time and paid a good amount of money for their tables, I sat on the floor of the top step so I wouldn’t obscure their line of sight — and hopefully, not be asked to move to the designated standing room at the back. Luckily, I seemed to more or less be out of the way.

I’m going to be frank: my knowledge of Joni Mitchell prior to this event was next to nil. A child of the eighties, I grew up on the pop superstars of the era: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Phil Collins, etc. I didn’t get into my 60’s and 70’s discovery period until University, and I’ll be the first to admit that my classics education is full of holes. Somehow, Joni had been overlooked!

So, while this Tribute event was a night of nostalgia and appreciation for a well-loved member of musical history, it was sort of an introductory journey for me. Although the songs weren’t the versions recorded by the well-known world-wide Canadian superstar, they were versions performed by some of Canada’s best kept secrets.

Hosted by Mia Sheard and featuring several Hugh’s Room mainstays including exceptional talents Jory Nash and Lori Cullan, the event was kept casual and loose with Mia’s amicable but often wacky, wandering banter. For the most part, the songs themselves were knit tightly together, a professional display of superb musicianship by the evening’s house band, featuring Les Cooper on guitar, David Matheson on piano, Ryan Granville-Martin on drums, Chris Gartner on bass, and Ernie Tollar on… well, almost every instrument you can think of, including variations of flutes and saxophones. Yes, the band was tight from song-to-song — that is, excepting the improvisational “second” encore (they never left the stage for the first one), Big Yellow Taxi. This was a brash mess, but man, the fun the performers were having hashing it out on stage was contagious.

Lacking in familiarity as I am, it’s difficult for me to review just how faithful these performances are to the original, but they made me WANT to hear the originals. If that isn’t a mark of a successful tribute, I’m not sure what is.

The quality of the recording is exceptional. All instruments come through loud and more than fairly clear. The only flaws to be had are, from time to time, you can hear someone stomp up or down the stairs beside me, and the group sitting at the table directly behind me get a bit chatty from time-to-time. The room is small enough that you hear the squeak of chairs being pulled out from tables, ice cubes clinking in glasses, etc. Luckily, these noises are the exception, and far from the rule.

Some really amazing talent on this tape, and some phenomenal songs. I don’t care if you’re a fan of Joni Mitchell, or a newbie like I was — download this recording and give it a spin. It’s well-worth your time from top-to-bottom.

SET ONE

01. [introduction]
02. Down To You *
03. [banter]
04. River ^
05. [banter]
06. The Silky Veils of Ardor ^
07. [banter]
08. Raised on Robbery $*
09. [banter]
10. A Case of You $
11. [banter]
12. Cherokee Louise %
13. [banter]
14. Amelia #
15. [banter] [tease]
16. Help Me *%
17. [banter]

SET TWO

18. [introduction]
19. Both Sides, Now %
20. [banter]
21. Coyote *
22. [banter]
23. Hejira @
24. [banter]
25. All I Want $
26. [banter]
27. Woodstock ^
28. [banter] / [teases]
29. Twisted @
30. [banter]
31. Free Man In Paris %*
32. [banter]
33. Blue *
34. [banter]
35. Carey *^$%
36. [encore]
37. Big Yellow Taxi *^$%

(vocals performed by)
* Mia Sheard
^ Jory Nash
$ Colleen Brown
% Lori Cullan
# Les Cooper
@ David Matheson

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All I Want (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]


BIG thank you to Colleen Brown, and to Mia Sheard, Jory Nash, Lori Cuyllan, Les Cooper, David Matheson, Ryan Granville-Martin, Chris Gartner, Ernie Tollar and everyone at Hugh’s Room.

Published inLive Recordings

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