Friday, September 29, 2006

Sarah Harmer, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, 23 September 2006

While an estimated 50,000 people crowded the Halifax Commons for the Rolling Stones concert, a significantly smaller (as well as drier and warmer) crowd attended a delightful performance by the always lovely Sarah Harmer who is touring in promotion of her most recent album, I'm a Mountain. I had seen her twice before, two years ago at the same venue, and last summer at the Tulipfest in Ottawa, and she always puts on a good show. Her voice is beautiful; her band is fantastic; her banter is engaging; and Jenn and I had front row seats.

In the absence of an opening act, Harmer and her band of four hit the stage just after 8:00 and played until 9:45 followed by a three-song encore (can't complain with a nearly 2-hour set). She opened with "I Am Aglow" and the set list included nearly every song on I'm a Mountain (an album I can't get enough of, by the way), as well as favourites like "Basement Apt.", "Dogs and Thunder" and "Silver Road". It's always nice when an artist plays some unexpected cover songs in a show to keep things interesting. Harmer opted for The Shins' "Gone For Good" and '40s jazz tune "Black Coffee" which really highlighted the talents of her band. To close, the group came to the edge of the stage for a totally unplugged rendition of "How Deep in the Valley".

As I've mentioned before, I enjoy good stage banter in a live show, and Harmer satisfies in this regard. She is very casual and unintentionally funny. Of "Oleander" Harmer explained, "I thought I could use bluegrass music to do something for horticulture, so I wrote a song about a plant." She went on to say that she called in to a gardening show in the greater Ottawa area and the expert advised her that music is very beneficial to plants, especially that of the country genre. Unsurprisingly, she spoke of her work as a "nature nerd" in the Niagara Escarpment where she grew up. She spoke in particular of her work finding the threatened Jefferson Salamander near her parents' home.

Anyone familiar with Harmer's albums knows that she's one of the best in Canadian music today, and her live performance only secures her spot on my list of favourite artists. Snap up any opportunity to see one of her shows.

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