A report of Jann Arden/Rose Cousin’s concert, 4 September 2014 Victoria, BC, Canada.
In 1995 I was touring BC and Alberta on holiday and walked into a Music shop in Banff. I asked the man serving in the shop if he could recommend a Canadian singer that he thought I might like. He mentioned that a new Alberta sweetheart, that was proving popular, was Jann Arden. I snapped up her CD “Living Under June” and fell in love. I introduced the music to my then Canadian boyfriend (later my husband) who had not heard of her, but who also fell under Jann’s spell with her quirky folky/rock songs. Since that time I have listen to her music and learnt to sing many of her soulful ballads.
Fast-forward to 2014 and my family had plans to move from the beautiful sunny shores of the Cote d’azur, France to the equally beautiful, but less sunny coast of Victoria, BC, Canada. A quick check on upcoming concerts revealed that my top two Canadian singers: Sarah McLachlan and Jann Arden were due to sing in Victoria! What excitement and luck for me. Budgets and babysitters get in the way of the hard decision that had to be made: which event to choose… I’d been fortunate enough to see Sarah in Montreal in the 1990’s, so the vote was 100% for Jann.
Jann was kick starting her Canadian tour to promote her 12th album, Everything Almost and tickets had sold quickly. By the time I tried to book all but 10 seats remained. Hence balcony near the back seats remained, but no matter I had a ticket for the Royal Theatre, Victoria show!
I love the efficiency that I’m experiencing in Canada. Online booking works a treat. Things run on time and people are very friendly. I was informed that the show would start at 7.30pm and would run for 2 hours 45 minutes. Guess what, it worked exactly like that. Wow, was I ready to rock.
No babysitter was possible so I came alone. Or to share a line from Jann, “I was not alone, I was with Jann!”. This Alberta singer-songwriter is now celebrating her 52nd year, and the audience profile tended to match. The majority of people attending were in the mid 40’s to 60’s with the exception of one young girl called Bella who the audience got to meet and a couple of other “younger” folks dotted about on the balcony level.
It’s been a long time since I attended a music gig without having part of my view blocked by something holding up their camera or smart phone to video or take photographs. I have to say it was quite refreshing and remarkably enjoyable. All attendees were told that no photography was allowed during the show. With no public mention or reminder of this fact, I was honestly amazed that during the show not one person took a sneaky photo. I was tempted but realised this Canadian audience were an honest bunch – it would never have worked in France (;-) It was only during the encore when Jann stated she didn’t care if people wanted to snap her photo and share it on FB, Twitter or any social media platform that people slowly pulled out their phones and filmed and snapped away.
I did not make notes during the show but here are some of my memories and observations from last night’s show.
Rose Cousins opened the show. Who, yes it was my first question as well. Sadly her name was not promoted in the ticket nor on the theatre billboard. However, after tonight’s performance I feel Rose has won herself plenty of new fans. Originally from Prince Edward Island she now lives in Halifax. Apparently she writes from a tiny New Hampshire Island cabin, with no electricity and shares her beliefs about life. Her soulful voice resonated around the theatre and lyrics were delivered with passion and clarity. Slow, deliberate and questioning words reach out to the audience as she strummed her guitar – alone with no support. I thought this was a brave way to start a show… Luckily the darkness and shade of the sombre music was broken up by the humour and teasing that Rose shared with the audience. It was this ping pong change from dark to light that made her short, thirty minute performance such a delight. She sang songs from her STRAY BIRDS CD. This is a collection of meaningful covers, some by friends, some by heroes, along with two new originals, including the EP’s namesake.
No surprise that there was rush to the sales table, during intermission, to meet Rose for those interested to buy her latest EP/CD. As she stated, “I’ll be hanging out near to the CD sales table in the lobby – no pressure to come and meet me!”.
And so we come to the main act, Jann Arden. Jann clearly is no pretentious diva or sex god. The opening lit logo image of her “shape” was testament to her style: She is “large” and proud! Her worst nightmare being if her skirt would fall down on stage, but as she quipped, she has hips and that probably only happens with skinny girls! Her years of touring experience shone through. She was at ease with the crowd – connecting, joking and sharing her fears, dreams and wishes. She perhaps wants to be a sexy rock chick: her leather boots and faux-leather jacket paid testament to that but her self-deprecating humour “I have sweat rolling down my butt” was shared to confirm she was like one of us, “hot and human!”.
And human she is with a few wobbly notes for the first song but thereafter she was rockin, rolling and cruising with her dyed blond hair and amazing support band. Sadly I made no notes and can’t recall the names of the band other than they hailed from Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary as well as USA. I’ll research and update later…
She kicked off with some of her older tracks (and my favourites Time for Mercy, Will You Remember Me, Good Mother and Unloved) but was careful to weave in her newer material from her latest CD Everything Almost. This latest collaboration with Grammy Award winning producer Bob Rock is considered to be amongst Jann’s finest work – progressive, yet retaining the magic that is distinctly Jann. Her support band were really ace, tight and professional. Special mention should be made of her keyboard/violin player, Allison Cornell.
Within the show she helped cheer up one lady who was celebrating her 60th birthday, who had thought she was coming to see Ann Murray, by singing “Songbird”. Whilst sang in a tongue in cheek manner, it was an audience pleaser! Jann also sang another strong cover favourite by Carly Simon “You’re so Vain”. She speculated Carly was singing about Woody Allan to the amusement of the crowd.
Full of surprises Jann let her band entertain the crowd and gave the spot light to her keyboard/violin player, Allison Cornell, to give her a perhaps much needed break during the mamouth 2.5 hour show. She popped up in the audience, sitting and singing in the only spare seat in the house. Whilst exchanging banter with the audience she realised her adult theme conversation might be offensive to the one and only child in the room. She invited the little girl in the front row to receive a 20 dollar bill to go and buy a “pot or pan” to cover up her discussion about marijuana (pot). Later the same lucky girl received two more 20 dollar bills to cover up her embarrassment and serve as an apology for discussing her death obsessed behaviour in her early 20’s.
Ahead of an emotional performance of her famous hit “Insensitive” the crowd where privy to her fun recount of being interviewed by a Mississippi Radio DJ who had called the song Insatiable! Some sassy attendee stole her dramatic pause during her performance of that same song by singing IN (to complete the word insensitive) but Jann took it in her strike and acknowledged the cheeky person before completing the song.
The crowd’s receptiveness and warmth was well rewarded with a 25 minute encore AFTER the two hour show.
To wrap up I can’t put it better than Nac Southam Hall “ Whether she is captivating audiences with her heartfelt music, entertaining them with her quick wit or sharing her written word in a boldly honest voice – Jann Arden is a Canadian original – a brilliant multi-dimensional talent.”
If you have the chance, do try and get tickets to see Jann during this tour – highly recommended. If you can’t do that, the next best thing, buy her music, you will not be disappointed.
See Jann’s Performance from a few years ago – still wearing those same leather boots!