Danny Michel @ Winter Garden Theatre

. : : December 8th, 2012 : : .

How much you enjoy seeing shows at the Winter Garden Theatre seems to depend primarily on where you sit.

It seems it has only recently turned into a music venue, showcasing primarily Canadian talent too big for bars but too small for halls, or just desiring an atypically intimate performance. I’ve seen the likes of Steven Page, Amelia Curran, Jenn Grant, Whitehorse, and the topic of today’s post, Danny Michel, all perform there in recent months. I’ve missed a handful more, still.

But its sight lines are decent, chairs reasonably comfortable, and sound…well, that’s a mixed bag.

I originally tried taping in this venue from the box seats, presuming that the elevation and exclusivity would a) bring me closer to the speakers, as I prefer to tape as close to the PA as possible, and b) cut out crowd noise that tends to reverberate throughout theatres such as this. However, the box seats are outside of the speakers directions, and you only pick up bounced sound. This time, I opted for a seat in the orchestra pit, off to the left-hand side in an attempt to align with the PA again.

The tape is improved for this change, but the sound at the Winter Garden will never be confused for the sound at, oh, I don’t know, The Dakota Tavern, let’s say. You know, the place I saw Danny perform a similar set only a couple of months previously. And it’s hard not to be spoiled by the intimacy and brilliant sound of a tiny room like the Dakota Tavern, where you could literally reach out and touch the performers. But you wouldn’t, because that would be creepy.

There’s no denying it’s a beautiful room. I’ve likened it to a Shakespearean round before, and I’ve yet to come up with a more apt description. But, like any theatre, it has its restrictions. The elevated stage means side orchestra seats felt a little obscured, and the sound was still the hollow, boomy theatre noise. Can’t argue it wasn’t louder and even a bit clearer than other visits, but I’d take a little-known, well-loved country bar in the heart of Ossington over a theatre any day of the week, no matter how beautiful it is.

Danny, on the other hand, seemed to absolutely love playing the venue. The beauty of the room, the large, respectful crowd, and the excited electricity that hung in the air fueled his performance. None of the charm exuding from the stage was lost in reverberation of the music echoing across the balcony and back again. In fact, in some ways, this was a return to the Danny Michel I fell completely in love with him at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio years ago.

There, he played a seemingly off-the-cuff take on the 1970’s Spider-Man cartoon’s theme song. Here it was the campy 1960’s Adam West Batman’s. There he bounced back-and-forth between bouncy classic songs like White Lightning and Tennessee Tobacco and newer, catchy, island breezy pop gems from his latest album. He did pretty much the same thing here.

Which is to say, it’s hard to have a bad time at ANY Danny Michel show, whether a large, isolating (if comfortable and beautiful) theatre, or an intimate, shoulder-to-shoulder standing room only bar. New songs like Survivor’s Guilt and Into The Light improve upon the pop classics of Michel’s recent back catalog, sounding large enough to fill stadium-sized rooms. At an hour and forty minutes, each of the evening’s 14-or so songs (minus teases and bantering) clock in at an average of around 5-minutes, a feat that might be exhausting under lesser performers, but Danny is able to grasp the audience’s attention with unyielding fingers that hold tight from the opening notes to the final beats of the blazing drum solo outro of the always exceptional encore track, The Switchman.

While this might not be my best Danny Michel recording, it’s still A Danny Michel recording, and that in and of itself holds high intrinsic value around these parts. If you’re looking for a more accurate representation of Michel’s performances, you’re in luck! Danny and his band are performing a weekly residency at the aforementioned Dakota Tavern on Monday night’s this March. You may have missed the first couple of chances to catch our friend, but you still have a couple more. Who know, maybe I’ll even see you there?

01. [introduction]
02. Maybe You Can Find It In Your Heart
03. [banter]
04. A Cold Road
05. [banter]
06. White Lightning
07. [banter]
08. Survivor’s Guilt
09. [banter]
10. What Colour Are You
11. [banter]
12. I Will Love You For Miles
13. [banter]
14. Tennessee Tobacco
15. [banter] > Yakety Sax [Rudolph]
16. If God’s On Your Side
17. Batman Theme [Hefti]
18. [banter]
19. Feather, Fur and Fin
20. Into The Light
21. Wish Willie
22. [banter] > Sundown [Lightfoot] [tease]
23. Who’s Going To Miss You
24. [encore]
25. [banter]
26. Perfect
27. The Switchman

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Into The Light (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

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