Wednesday, December 20th, 2006
Paradise Here Abouts
The third of three Canadian shows with Ottawa’s Voices Of Praise gospel choir with whom he collaborated on the ‘Sno Angel Like You album, there was a very laid back electricity in the club – like everyone knew it was going to be a great show, but there was no need to get all worked up about it beforehand. It’d come. And so it did when Gelb, his four-piece band (three Ottawans and one Torontonian) and the eight-piece choir ambled onstage and began performing.
As good as the material on ‘Sno Angel is, it was evident that the extra time spent between Gelb and the choir touring and playing since the album was recorded has paid off huge. The songs maintain their low-key, wise and weary resonance but the choir sounds richer and more powerful behind them, lifting them up without overwhelming. Particularly moving were the songs of Rainer Ptacek – they sounded marvelous and the obvious love Gelb had for his late Giant Sand collaborator, essentially dedicating the show to his memory, made them that much more poignant.
I kind of regret having used up all my good Gelb descriptors in my review of Giant Sand’s show at Pop Montreal in October. Allow me to reuse the “visiting, vagabond uncle with a twinkle in his eye” line again, as it was just as apt on this night as it was on that one. The biggest difference was that he seemed much more focused, which only makes sense as you can’t really meander when you’ve got a dozen other people onstage playing with you. Wry, warm and a wholly entertaining storyteller, Gelb mentioned that this – meaning the ‘Sno Angel project – was the best time he’s ever had and even as long and storied as his musical career has been, I totally believed him. Likewise, the Voices Of Praise seemed to be having an outstanding time, dancing, smiling and sounding simply marvelous and uplifting, their energy contagious. Though Gelb is confessedly non-religious, there was no denying the deep spirituality being manifested musically by those onstage.
They closed off the encore in charming fashion as well – wanting to dust off an old Giant Sand Christmas song for the season but not remembering the words, they played it karaoke style with the track coming over the PA and Gelb lip synching along and attempting to sing where possible. Goofy but utterly endearing. I know this wasn’t my last gig of the year, but if it was? What a perfect way to finish up.
Radio Free Canuckistan has posted the complete transcript of the interview with Gelb that yielded last week’s eye feature as well as a 2003 interview dug out of the archives. And Zoilus has a review of the show in yesterday’s Globe & Mail.
And in happy news, I’ve been granted a photo pass for SxSW 2007 which, as the long time reader will recall, has been a holy grail of sorts for me for years now. And as much as fun as it’s been to smuggle the ol’ SLR and be able to say, “why yes – that IS a Canon in my pants”, this will be better.