JANE SIBERRY at Hugh's Room (2261 Dundas West), Tuesday-Thursday (December 18-20). $25. 416-531-6604.
jane siberry is a two-headed beast. You have the consummate professional behind Sheeba Records, who's sharp and meticulous about details of commerce and the logistics of business. But get her talking about the creative process, pop culture or the horrors of current events, and a different Siberry comes out. Spiritual and vaguely new age-flaky, she waxes philosophic about energy, darkness and light, evil forces and Harry Potter. "I think what happened in New York City is only the tip of the iceberg -- there is so much evil out there. The Harry Potter books are great because they teach people there are higher forces that we have to do battle with, and that evil is palpable. I adore those books. I didn't read the last three pages of the last book, 'cause I just couldn't bear for it to be over. I'll read them when the next book comes out."
It's been three years since she returned to Toronto from NYC (her home since the mid-90s), but she still feels nostalgic for the big-city lights. Siberry claims she felt like more of a musician there and was more connected to the scene. But obligations to her family and to her self-owned and -operated label, Sheeba Records, both based in the T-dot, won out.
You can hear Alphabet City in her music. There's The New York Trilogy, a collection of three themed albums (Tree, Child and Lips) culled from a series of standout concerts at the city's Bottom Line club. 1997's experimental A Day In The Life, a 29-minute aural collage of answering machine messages, cab rides, yoga classes and rehearsals, captured the nitty-gritty of Siberry's NYC routine.
The title of her newest record, City, was inspired by, as she puts it, the image of a sea of collaborators rising above the chanteuse like skyscrapers to create a musical metropolis.
The album's cover originally featured a photo of the World Trade Center. It was about to go to press, and then came September 11. Shocked by the suggestion that she could have exploited the disaster, Siberry yanked the prototype and replaced the image with a pic of her face.
"There's no joking about it. In New York there are streams of energy everywhere, forces of darkness and light battling. I don't want to add to that hatred."
She went back to her beloved Big Apple to participate in the flag-waving Canada Loves New York concert-cum-rally and came away feeling uneasy.
"Many people came forward with a lot of good will, but there's still so much hatred. I can't imagine how horrible it must be to be a person from Afghanistan living in New York right now. If we're going to get out of that schoolyard mentality, we have to change our ways of thinking.
"One thing stood out. While I was in my hotel room, I heard someone playing the trumpet outside, and I went to look out the window. There was this lone person out by the rubble, playing a hymn. When he was done, he packed up his trumpet and got into his car and drove away. Not wanting any acknowledgement or reward. Just playing. It was so beautiful -- we need more of that in the world right now."