KELLY HOGAN and WHITNEY ROSE at the Drake Hotel, Saturday, December 1. Rating: NNNN
It was a small miracle that Kelly Hogan and her band made it to the Drake Hotel in time for their set: she'd just got off antibiotics for pneumonia and the group was delayed on their way into Canada by Biebermania ("Justin Bieber stole our sound check," she said).
Luckily, they did, because I Like To Keep Myself In Pain - a collection of covers written for/given to Hogan by great songwriters she knows and her first solo album in 11 years - is one of those albums you really should experience live.
I'd never seen Hogan be a front woman before (she's usually on the road singing backup for Neko Case), but she proved to be a versatile singer, bossy with her band mates (she knows what she wants) and quirkily funny as hell (she called the dregs of her cold "lung tadpoles" and told us they don't make sports bras in her size).
At first, Hogan appeared to be putting a professional face on a difficult show, but that soon shifted to earnest fun. The band was just three people, but they rocked: Jim Elkington on guitar, Gerald Dowd on drums, and Nora O'Conner, who actually learned to play bass just for this tour. Everybody sang.
Haunted, by Jon Langford, came off fantastically live (Hogan said her one request in the studio for that one was that it needed to smell like a bar) as did Vic Chestnutt's Ways Of This World. I also really liked Sleeper Awake by Jon Wesley Harding and mellower Slumber's Sympathy (by Gabe Roth, who played on the album).
As promised, the group played Wilco's love song Open Mind, which Hogan recorded but was cut from the album, and they encored with a great version of the Magnetic Fields classic Papa Was A Rodeo.
I only caught the tail end of opener Whitney Rose's last song, At The Do Si Do, but her voice - a big bold old-timey country voice coming out of a very slight woman - was impressive. I wish I had caught her whole set.