MARTINA SORBARA at the Rivoli, November 23. Tickets: $7. Attendance: 200. Rating: NNN
for a complete unknown, Martina Sorbara sure has a lot of fans. Good fans, too -- people like Jian Ghomeshi of Moxy Früvous, who produced her winsome new disc, The Cure For Bad Deeds, and now manages her. Guitarist Kevin Fox and singer Damhnait Doyle also showed support at the Rivoli Thursday along with a pile of publicists, agents and record company personnel. Dar Williams undoubtedly phoned in her best wishes. So who is Sorbara and why did 200-odd people come to see her? Buzz, baby, buzz -- not to mention a load of cheerleading from Ghomeshi, whose endorsement clearly carries weight in this town.
He's onto something. Sorbara is a local singer, songwriter and musician who writes terrifically real, conversational, jazz-and-folk-flecked pop songs seemingly anchored in sadness but redeemed by Sorbara's sweet voice and gift for shiny melody. She's also a great piano player and a respectable guitarist who gets extra props for actually making her own guitars.
During her Riv set -- apparently her first "big" Toronto show -- Sorbara and drummer Adam Hay drove through songs from the new album with verve but never bombast. For two people, Sorbara and Hay made a lot of noise, the former switching back and forth between keyboard and guitar and the latter rooted behind a pagoda of percussion instruments.
Since most of the material was unfamiliar -- and half the music industry was on hand -- one might have expected more chatter. Not even Beck could clam up talking industry heads during a showcase.
Yet Sorbara, keeping things light and clipping along at a steady pace, commanded full-on attention. Impressive. The only question now seems to be, of the various interested labels, who'll claim the prize? No matter what, Sorbara is going to end up a winner.