Concerts Concerts Basia Bulat Caps Off A Great Night Of Music

Basia Bulat Caps Off A Great Night Of Music

Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre
Basia Bulat
Julie Doiron, The Wilderness Of Manitoba
Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto, ON
June 4, 2010

Review by: Jen Polk
Photos by: Sara Collaton

It's rare that a show will provide me the opportunity to see three of my favourite acts all on the same bill. But that's what happened a couple Fridays ago at the Phoenix when Basia Bulat and her band performed songs new and older after fantastic opening sets by Julie Doiron and The Wilderness of Manitoba.

Basia Bulat

With a generally respectful crowd and good sound at the Phoenix Friday night, I knew, barring disaster, Basia Bulat and her band would be great. And they were. Friends and usual bandmates Bobby Bulat (percussion), Holly "Rancher" Coish (ukelele, piano, vocals), Allison Stewart (viola, vocals), and a new bassist were all in fine form. They appeared to be pretty pleased to be back home; Basia's interest in how the Blue Jays had fared that evening seemed genuine. And it's that genuineness is one of the things that makes her, her music, and her live shows so enjoyable. 

The band began with "Pilgriming Vine", one of Oh, My Darling's (2008) top tracks, and "Heart Of My Own," taken from Basia's latest album of the same name. Over the course of the set, "Run," "Gold Rush," "In the Night," "Little Waltz," "Birds of Paradise" (performed solo), "Before I Knew," "Snakes and Ladders," "Go On," and others were performed, including a couple of new tunes. Some, such as "In the Night" and "Before I Knew," were joyous affairs. Seeing as how this show was in a large standing-room-only venue, it wasn't quite the occasion as was the last time I saw Basia, but the band impressed nonetheless. Near the stage, fans were dancing and clapping and occasionally singing along.

An encore was a certainty even after a long 14-song set. First Basia returned to the stage alone. She sang a traditional American spiritual, "Soon One Mornin'." I've heard her do it before, and it is always stunning. Then her band returned for "The Shore," a song off Heart of My Own, and then the older "I Was A Daughter," ending the night on a high.

Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Basia Bulat at Phoenix Concert Theatre  

Julie Doiron

I've seen Julie Doiron several times over the past couple of years, and I am a big fan. She epitomizes honest musicianship in my books: she performs because she loves to and sings the songs she wants to. Every time I see her she has been backed up by a different supporting cast; on this night it was just Will Kidman, otherwise known as the keyboard player for the Constantines. They've collaborated before, so I wasn't surprised to see him up there. And so we had ourselves the duo version of Julie Doiron. How exciting!

I was thrilled from the first song, the Fred Squire tune "Spill Yer Lungs" off Doiron's latest album, I Can Wonder What You Did with Your Day (2009). The early part of the set was new album-heavy, with "Heavy Snow" and "Consolation Prize" coming next. She didn't say much in the beginning, but soon enough Doiron was back to being herself. Next she sang a song she wrote in the bathroom stall in Sackville, NB, she told us, and then she and Kidman did an amazing cover of "Love Hurts." Wow. The awesomeness continued with a nearly epic "Wrong Guy" / "No More" medley. And then a new song, but one I've heard done live before. Doiron apologized for borrowing a picking pattern from a famous tune, but her take on "House of the Rising Sun" was rather different, and featured a beautiful, sad chorus ("To all: I am sorry, forgive me"). Next was a solo rendition of "Me and My Friend," and then Doiron and Kidman played "Woke Myself Up," requested by a young man in the front row. A new song about Doiron's time living in Montreal, presumably entitled "We All Have to Try," and "Glad to Be Alive" (solo) ended the great set.

Doiron told us she thought Basia Bulat's first performance was opening for her, and though she seemed pleased to be there, the statement gave me pause. The two are quite different songwriters and have very different ways of expressing themselves on stage. There are some commonalities for sure — a surface-level adorableness, genuineness, and seeming friendliness — but seeing the two on the same bill emphasized their differences. Doiron's music, one moment reverb-heavy guitar-and-drums rock song, the next heart-breaking solo artist, contrasted with Bulat's more consistently joyful, pretty songs. I was glad for the variety, and love both artists. But it's possible the combination was a little jarring for others. 

Julie Dorian at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Julie Dorian at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Julie Dorian at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Julie Dorian at Phoenix Concert Theatre   Julie Dorian at Phoenix Concert Theatre  

The Wilderness of Manitoba

It's always nice to see friends able to do what they love, and having some success at it. In the opening slot, Toronto band The Wilderness of Manitoba performed to a large early crowd. And they — Stefan Banjevic, Scott Bouwmeester, Melissa Dalton, Sean Lancaric, and Will Whitwham — took full advantage of the room's big sound. The band members appeared comfortable on the big stage in front of such a large audience, and the songs sounded great. I was especially happy to hear Dalton's beautiful voice loudly and clearly.

Their set began impressively, so much so that I was caught off guard. From the first harmonized notes of "Orono Park," it seemed like things would go very well. The band performed other songs off their new album (due out June 22nd), including "St. Petersburg," "Summer Fires," "November," and "Hermit," most staples of their live show for a while now. "Evening" and "Dreamcatchers," from the band's debut EP, Hymns of Love & Spirits (2009), rounded out the set. The final tune brought out some extra pep in the musicians, so that things ended on a high note. 

The Wilderness of Manitoba celebrate the release of their album, When You Left the Fire, with a show at the Music Gallery on June 25th with Evening Hymns

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