Monday, February 6th, 2012
Bry Webb and Doug Tielli at The Music Gallery in Toronto
Frank YangIt probably amounts to some sort of Can-rock heresy, but I think I actually like Bry Webb on his own more than I ever did with Constantines. I fully acknowledge why many hold the Cons up as one of the greatest Canadian rock acts of the past however many years/decades/centuries – I’ve seen them live, I know what they were capable of – but the fact is, his solo debut Provider has captivated me more than any of the Cons studio releases ever did. The whys of it, I’ve already covered but it’s telling that even though I had opportunities to catch the Constantines a couple years ago one last time before they went on their indefinite hiatus, I never got around to it whereas when it was announced that Webb would be playing a couple of intimate shows at The Music Gallery on Saturday night to properly mark the record’s release – he technically debuted the new songs in December at Massey Hall opening for Feist – the early show went straight into the calendar.
Opening up both sets was local fixture Doug Tielli, who came armed with just his voice and guitar; the former a slow, warm instrument with effortless falsetto, the latter a virtuosically-handled Stratocaster. Not much, but still plenty when wrapped around a half-dozen songs that ranged from country-western shuffles about cows to jazzy-yet-visceral croons to shimmering atmospheric pop and also a cover of Aretha’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. Short but sweet.
I’d actually seen Webb solo before back in December 2009 when he was operating under the guise of Harbour Coats. I don’t know how much, if any, of that material made it onto Provider but that show did affirm that Webb was as compelling a performer on his own as with a band. For this occasion, he again had a band – dubbed The Providers – but they were hardly a conventional setup, with Webb mainly on acoustic guitar and backed by an upright bass, lap steel and pedal steel. The configuration was an inspired one, evoking a heartbeat and blood flow while Webb gave his songs breath and spirit. Even though no one doubted that Webb’s vocals, known across Canada for their rough bark, could be just as affecting as a sigh, hearing it fill the church sanctuary on gorgeous and moving moments like “Asa” and “Persistent Spirit” was still revelatory. The heaviest moment of the night came with set closer “Ex-Punks”, wherein they were joined by a drummer to add enough hammering percussion that if you looked and listened close enough, you could perceive the ghosts of the Constantines hovering overhead; not invoked, but acknowledged. For the one-song encore, they offered a cover of The Mills Brothers’ “Smoke Rings” and sent us on our way and the ready themselves to do it all over again.
Mechanical Forest Sound has a recording of “Ex-Punks” from the show he’d like to share, and BlogTO has a review. NOW, The Guelph Mercury, The Toronto Star, Spinner, Brock Press, and BlogTO have profile pieces on Webb.
Photos: Bry Webb, Doug Tielli @ The Music Gallery – February 4, 2012
MP3: Bry Webb – “Rivers Of Gold”
Stream: Bry Webb – “Undertaker”
Stream: Doug Tielli – “Deer”
Video: Doug Tielli – “Deer”
Video: The Acorn – “Misplaced”
The schedule for this year’s Canadian Musicfest is probably still a ways off, but some showcases lineups are trickling out, including this Quebec-centric one at The El Mocambo on March 22, which will feature a super-solid lineup of The Dears, Martha Wainwright, Galaxie, and Adam & The Amethysts. Advance tickets are $20 or you can try your luck with a festival wristband, of which a limited number will be admitted.
Great Lake Swimmers are streaming a second selection from their new album New Wild Everywhere, due out April 3. They play The Music Hall on June 2.
Consequence Of Sound reports that Neil Young’s getting back together with Crazy Horse may yield as many as two albums – the one called Americana is apparently already recorded and a second is in the works. Or, it being Neil, maybe nothing will actually come of this.
Whole lot of talking about Leonard Cohen in the wake of last week’s release of Old Ideas: The AV Club has a primer to his recorded works, Exclaim has assembled a timeline of his career, and Spinner and The National Post have both assembled panels of musicians to talk about the influence of the man and his music. Also, two more installments of the Old Ideas With New Friends covers series have surfaced, with The Guardian presenting Cults covering “Everybody Knows” and Pitchfork hosting Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox doing his take on, “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy”.