JILL BARBER with the JOEL PLASKETT EMERGENCY at Lee's Palace, November 22. Tickets: $15. Attendance: 250. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
god, i miss all-ages shows. there's something beautifully pure about seeing a concert on a weekend afternoon, hanging out with a bunch of teens - and post-teens - who are simply geared up to rock out. They're not there to get shit-faced (unless there was something sinister in the brand-name Buzz Water that alt-rock poster boy Joel Plaskett was pushing) or to look cool while smoking with folded arms in the back corner of the club.
That's what I dug about Saturday afternoon's Joel Plaskett- Jill Barber show at Lee's Palace . It reminded me of the Sonic Unyon all-ages alt-rock throwdowns I lived for as a 14-year-old, when everyone was just there for the music.
The chilled-out, liquor-free vibe at Lee's was perfect for the opening set by Torontonian-turned-Haligonian Barber. Even the most jaded-looking indie kids shut up during the acoustic guitar-strumming singer/songwriter's sweet, slightly jazz-juiced ballads. Lucky for Barber there was none of the beer bottle-clinking and schmoozy bar chatter typical of licensed shows. It would've drowned out her solo performance, which had the intense, quiet intimacy of a tiny coffee house gig.
Barber (sister of local singer/songwriter on the rise Matt Barber) has the potential to be the next Sarah - either Slean or Harmer - and the presence of industry heavyweights like MapleMusic's Kim Cooke at this laid-back showcase attested to her growing buzz. She writes intelligent, stripped-down indie folk-pop tunes with a hint of Slean-esque cabaret punch and the weathered melodies that make Harmer's music so captivating.
Besides crush-ready good looks, Barber's hugest strength is her voice. Her dead-on phrasing, an impressive range and a knack for squeezing genuine emotion out of a cozy alto purr were enough to let you overlook her songs' occasionally repetitive hooks.
With experience, a little more confidence and a full band, she could become as awesome a performer as Plaskett. Never have I seen anyone look more comfortable and thrilled to be on a stage as the gangly, shaggy-haired Canrock icon.
His full-on 70s-style rawk explosion and East Coast anecdotes reminded me why all the girls used to swoon over Thrush Hermit at those all-ages afternoons back in the mid-90s.
It's pretty rad that he's still so swoon-worthy today.