Friday, November 18, 2011

The 'Land and Sea' of it: Sarah Sleen in concert

Wednesday night Andrew and I headed out to the Myer Horowitz Theatre at the U of A to catch Sarah Sleen in concert. It was the first time we'd been to the Myer Horowitz for a show and Andrew's first time seeing Sarah Sleen live. I'd seen and heard for her for the first time a few years ago when co-workers asked if I wanted to go see Rufus Wainwright (who I'd also never heard of before) and I said, 'Sure, why not?' A friend of mine had a couple of Sarah's CDs so I was able to familiarize myself with her music before the concert. That show was at the Winspear and Sarah performed by herself as the opening act. I remember she just sort of appeared on stage (the piano was closed to the edge) and got to it. I was impressed by what a fantastic musician she was.

I don't remember exactly how I found out that she was playing Edmonton. I knew she had a new CD out, Land and Sea, from my habitual CBC listening, but I don't think they said anything about her coming to Alberta. At any rate, I asked Andrew if he wanted to go, and he agreed (we did have her last record, The Baroness, so he was at least a little familiar with Sarah's music).

Wednesday came, and of course that was the night the big snow dump was supposed to start (thankfully it didn't get going until after we got home). Our seats were about halfway up the floor on the right side. Myer Horowitz isn't a huge theatre as we discovered, so it still felt like we were quite close to the stage. The show was reasonably full, and the audience certainly seemed appreciative (as I'll touch on a little later). Once again, when Sarah arrive on stage, she just sort of tip-toed out (barefoot too) and took her place at the piano. This time she had an band backing her up--guitar, bass, drums, and a Jack-of-all-trade rhythm guitar/synthesizer/piano/backup vocalist. The bulk of the music played during the evening came from the new album Land and Sea, so I didn't know a lot if (only picking the album up at the show), but she played some oldies as well.

If you've never seen Sarah, she is an entertainer. She tells lots of stories as she tinkers around on the piano, chats with the audience and such. She performed a small section in the middle solo, at which point audience members began shouting out songs they wanted to hear. I guess some of them were quite old as she remarked, those songs weren't just from the vault, they were 'archeological'. She also at one point remarked that the last time she was at the Myer Horowitz there'd been fancy lighting. Immediately after, the lighting guy (or gal) put up an Oilers emblem, to which Sarah replied: didn't they have cool shapes, flowers, waves, etc. The lighting person (who proved to be paying attention the whole night) brought up a flame pattern over top of the Oilers and Sarah commented: 'This is what I like to call, the Oilers in Hell.' We all got a good chuckle over this.

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, and Andrew seemed to too. The lyrics to Sarah's songs are very poetic. Sometimes, they're very deep with lots of meaning like The Day We Saved the World, or Attention Archers, but sometimes they're a bit more frivolous like Everybody's on T.V. Also, many of her songs were really rockin'. Maybe this is just the difference of listening to her music live compared to on CD at a reasonable volume, but the concert was actually pretty loud. Definitely the lead guitarist was having a having a good time, especially toward the end when he really got into the music. I was amused by the bassist who seemed to have a bit of a 'hipster' as he just sort of stood there and plucked away at his instrument. Sarah herself bounced away on her piano bench as she played.

When they end the show and the lights went down, the audience clapped for probably a full minute (it always seems longer, but I'm sure it wasn't) before Sarah came back out. As she took her place at the piano audience members again shouted out songs they wanted to hear. She gave into the demand and played a song I was vaguely familiar with, but isn't on any of the CDs I have (sorry, I don't know the name). Before she played she prefaced it by saying that she might need help to get through the lyrics. She didn't have any problems, but man was it sad. When she was done she commented, 'Is that was you really wanted?' Yes, by the audience response, it was. Don't worry, though, we didn't leave the theatre feeling miserable and depressed, the band came back out and they rocked two more songs before they finished the concert.
Sarah Sleen, at the piano...I know, how can you possibly tell?
Sarah picking up the mic to sing a few songs free from the piano.


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