Tuned into the Word To Music: Songwriters Hall of Fame hour-long special on CBC last night and most of it was awesome.Well, it should be since this is a concert-style show that can round up Canada's best musicians in a heartbeat - the house band was sensational. But sometimes, even when there are decent musicians in the line-up, live peformances can really suck.
Look no further than Arcade Fire's simply awful appearance on Saturday Night Live on February 24. Flat as a freaking pancake, thanks to I'm not sure what - the way it's shot? The shitty sound? It can't be the band's fault - we know they rock - and, besides, the Shins were equally bad last weekend.
Used to be a band could tear up the stage on SNL. What's going on? Somebody please name me a recent performance by musicians on SNL that was decent.
Back at the CBC studios, except that everyone was looking a little white - host Andrew Craig and opera star Measha Brueggergosman were the exceptions - it was a terrific hour of music. David Clayton Thomas, looking like a dead ringer for Mike Bullard rocked out on Spinning Wheel and ooh, that Corb Blunt guy is way cute. Herbie Hancock did back-up on Joni Mitchell's Help Me and had that "I am completely inspired in another zone look."
But what's up with Oh Susanna? She helped induct Sylvia Fricker's (AKA Tyson) You Were On My Mind singing with Jim Cuddy and I had to pity the poor Blue Rodeo main man. Try as he might to smile, cajole and get her energy up, he couldn't inspire her to do more than just stand there doing nothing and looking like a deer in the headlights. Shoulda given the honour of singing the tune to one of the Sarahs (Harmer or Slean, who was seen in the audience sitting behind Mitchell.)
High point? James Taylor singing Woodstock. Why? Because he sang the song like he meant it. How can I tell? Because I just saw him sing a song he couldn't give a shit about - that would be Randy Newman's Oscar nominated Our Town (from Cars) at the Academy Awards two weeks ago. Here he performed as if he were singing it to Mitchell, someone he still cares about, even though their lover relationship has been over for about 35 years. (It struck me as a very lesbian moment, in that way).
At the end of the show Mitchell showed some rare humility - something she is not particularly known for. In accepting her induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Fame, she said, "Everybody talks about my courage but really it's not about that at all. The stars were aligned for me - I just can't help it."