JEM with BLUE MERLE at Revival, November 19. Tickets: $12. Attendance: 250. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Walking into Revival last friday was like walking into a mid-sized software company's Christmas party. The crowd was well dressed, respectable and affluent. The musical programming was a safe and pleasant pop du jour sampling. And most of the crowd seemed more interested in talking about their portfolio windfalls and Christmas bonuses than actually listening to the music. The only thing missing was a punch bowl and gift cards.
Actually, the only people who seemed to notice the live music were the small contingent of young women dancing near the stage. They must have been from HR.
Adding to the corporate atmosphere was Nashville's Blue Merle . Backed up by a very competent band, career-minded frontman Lucas Reynolds was the consummate professional on stage. Someone should really talk to this kid about getting his Coldplay obsession under control, though. It's just not healthy. They make movies about this shit. If it wasn't for the fact that Blue Merle come armed with a fiddle player and a spare mandolin, you'd have thought that Chris Martin himself had ditched Gwyneth and baby in London and taken the band back out on the road.
That's not to say Lucas isn't talented, because he is. But an Elvis impersonator is still just an Elvis impersonator.
Slightly more original was Welsh songstress Jem , who hit the stage with all the excitement and zeal of a lip-ringed teenager accompanying her grandparents to church. Like dogs, Toronto audiences can smell fear. Jem looked absolutely petrified onstage. Not even her keytar-wielding bassist could snap her out of it. A girl beside me summed up Jem's lack of stage presence perfectly, muttering in a stage whisper, "I think she needs to do a couple of lines."
Worse yet, Jem's songbook borrowed heavily from both Dido and Sugar Ray, and even her O.C.-approved version of Maybe I'm Amazed did nothing to deconstruct the audience's firewall.
Before we knew it, Jem was finishing up. "Well, time flies when you're having fun - this is our last song," she announced dryly. Perhaps contractually obligated to perform an encore, Jem finally delivered her mini-hit They. It was easily the best song of the night, but arrived far too late to salvage a bankrupt performance.