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SLCR #177: Kathleen Edwards (October 3, 2012)

At least this one will be short. And boring.

This was a make-good show. Kathleen Edwards had been scheduled for a Regina show on April 12, but she came down with some throat issues which caused a delay of nearly six months. The delay, in turn, triggered a switch in the opening act, as Hannah Georges was replaced by Jenn Grant. The folks I know with tickets were disappointed with the delay but were understanding. We are not completely inhuman, here in Regina. As for the opening act switch, one friend’s delight was cancelled out by another’s disappointment, and vice versa. Me, I had no dog in this hunt. I was opening act Switzerland.

On this evening, I was recovering from my from my post-Minneapolis cold and was half-considering not even going. If the lingering road trip fatigue and ensuing illness wasn’t enough, this was also my first day at my new job. I spent the first hour at The Exchange thinking that my review might consist solely of the word guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuughg.

At least I got to sit down. We were in no rush to get to The Exchange, but when we got there, we discovered that two of my work pals were already there, camped out in the back of the venue. There was a spare chair for Mika, and I stood through the opening act, only stealing Mark’s chair once Kathleen Edwards started playing. It seemed like the polite thing to do.

These days, it seems like I only hear new music when Mika and I drive someplace (out of town, I mean) and she commandeers the iPod jack to play what she’s heard on CBC Radio 3. I like most of it! I tried downloading their Canadian indie music countdown, the R3-30, but for some reason, it crashes my iPod every time out. No idea why; nothing else I play does that, including longer CBC podcasts.

Anyway, this is a long way of explaining why I only knew one Jenn Grant song, Getcha Good, which she opened with. She stumbled a bit over the lyrics of her first few songs, but recovered nicely and her short set was enjoyable enough.

My general lack of knowledge of current music extends to Kathleen Edwards as well, though thanks to Mika’s iPod’s friendly shuffle, I probably knew about four of Edwards’ songs going in. Her most recent album, Voyageur, has been quite the success in Canada, being nominated for the 2012 Polaris Prize. (It lost to Feist’s newest, which is not the call I would have made, and I like Feist just fine.) Its big single, Change The Sheets, was inescapable, even to someone like me, but that wasn’t one of my favourite songs on the album, or at the show. Now, don’t think I can NAME the songs I liked better. That’s crazy talk. I’ll just say I really enjoyed the whole show from start to finish and call it good.

On the subject of not knowing things, despite owning one of his albums, I had no idea what famed Canadian songwriter Jim Bryson looked like and was not expecting him to be introduced as a member of Edwards’ band or for him to sing a song with her.

One of the few songs I did know, Chameleon/Comedian, contains the line “when I smile, it’s not for a funny joke.” For whatever reason, whenever Mika would play this in the car, I’d mishear it ever so slightly – “when I smile, is not for funny joke.” And then I’d think of Natasha Fatale singing the song in a Pottsylvanian accent and get the giggles. This is one of those stories that just doesn’t come across at all in print (or in person, I’ve been told); even less so because I’m listening to the song right now and Edwards enunciates quite clearly. I’d blame my crappy car speakers, but I heard the lyrics perfectly fine at the show as well.

While we’re on the topic of review filler, I can tell you that Kathleen Edwards opened for Willie Nelson in Saskatoon in 2005, and my stepfather, who would have been about 80 at the time, didn’t like her AT ALL. This was a regular topic of conversation for quite some time. I’m not even sure I ever knew why he didn’t like her.

And having now seen her in concert, I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t like her. Admittedly, she is not Willie Nelson; this is an undisputable fact, proven by science. But she also has lots of great songs, a remarkable voice, and a ridiculous amount of stage presence. And for someone with such critical acclaim, she never came across like she took herself too seriously. She’d take breaks to hand out copies of books she liked (including one, I believe, to my former neighbour who is all over these reviews these days) or tour t-shirts that had a run-in with some red wine. When singing a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Human Touch with Jenn Grant, they tripped each other up which resulted in the lyrics somehow becoming “na na na na na na fuck off human touch.”

All told, this show was fantastic. Mika’s got it as her pick for concert of the year, and while I’m not 100% convinced, you could make a pretty strong case for it. There’s a reason this show sold out so quickly that they booked (and, I believe, sold out) a second show. And there’s a reason that when Twitter told me they were playing in Chicago a few days later, I made a point of talking the internet’s very own Cubs Fan into going. I often end these reviews by urging you to check out the artist if they’re playing near you (or maybe I don’t; at any rate, it seems like the kind of thing I should do) but it’s very rare that I’m motivated enough to ensure personal follow-ups.

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