I was lucky enough to see Jann Arden's latest tour, in support of her eponymous album, twice last week -- on Tuesday and Thursday at Massey Hall. The reason for my double attendance is quite a story, itself, but I won't get into that now. Anyhow, I was really happy to be able to see the two shows, and to share the experience with both Kevin and Alex.
For the first show, Kevin and I had fairly poor seats: we were way over to one side of the second balcony, practically on top of the right end of the stage. So, it was often hard to see, and the sound was pretty poor, with the drum kit drowning out pretty much any subtlety or nuance in the vocals and the rest of the band. Fortunately, there were two gorgeous acuostic sets, which sounded wonderful. In the first, Jann did a solo version of "I Would Die For You", after which Kevin asked me if it was too early for a standing ovation. She was then joined by Bob Kemmis, who had opened for her, for "Unloved." Later, for her encore, she performed accoustic versions of "The Sound Of," "Waiting In Canada," and "Insensitive" with her band.
As for the rest of the setlist, it included about half of the tracks from the new album ("Calling God," "Where No One Knows Me," "All Of This," "How Good Things Are," and "Willing To Fall Down"), mixed in with various older songs (including "Waiting For Someone," "Will You Remeber Me," "Could I Be Your Girl," "Good Mother", "The Sound Of," "Holy Moses," and "Wishing That"). In all, I think it was really good selection, and I was happy to hear some songs from Time For Mercy and Happy? that I hadn't in a long time. In an ideal world, though, she would have done one or two of my current favourites: "Saved," "Into The Sun" and (big surprise) "Another Human Being." A couple of the more uptempo songs, "Where No One Knows Me" and "Willing To Fall Down" in particular, seemed a little unsteady and not too tight, like there was some struggle between the drummer and the rest of the band over tempo. Later, from reading Jann's journal, I learned that the click track wasn't working that night, which would explain that.
Of course, Jann was a riot. She told an extensive tale about a trip to the movies, a large popcorn and drink, the long ride home after an insufficient pee check, and a surprisingly located stray kernel. And the comic quips never stopped, especially when she was talking about her band. She explained the secret to her long-term working relationship with her guitarist and co-writer, Russ: "we've never seen each other nude." And, when introducing Darcy on the keyboards, she commented that they had meant during a short stint in the adult film industry...in Fort McMurray.
The second show was even better than the first, mainly because of where Alex and I sat: front row, centre -- literally, the best in the house. The photo up above was taken from my seat that night (the rest of them are here). At one point, Jann introduced and thanked the guy from A&M Records who first signed her. All I could think was, "our seats are so much better than his!" The sound was truly excellent up there; the vocals were clear in all the songs, with the drum kit blending in much better.
The setlist was the same as in the previous show, but it was a much more "on" crowd, giving greater response to everything...more applause for the songs, more laughter at the jokes, and several spontaneous outbursts of emotion: "Thank you Jann!" "We love you Jann!" "You look great tonight, Jann!" And she really did, wearing this cute yellow leather jacket and jeans that really flattered her figure.
Alex said I was probably the biggest fann there, mouthing along to all the songs and screaming a lot. A few times, I'm sure Jann looked right at me, and I felt foolish, stopped mouthing along, and just smiled. We had a little moment, too: Jann was asking a visibly pregnant woman in the front row about when she'd be having her child (turned out she was having twins, actually!), and if she'd decided on names. On hearing that she was expecting for March and she hadn't yet, Jann suggested that, since her birthday's in late March, maybe she should think about "Jann" or "Arden" or something. I thought that was a brilliant idea (I'd do it), so I yelled out "yeah!" Jann noticed my outburst, and without missing a beat, yelled "yeah!" right back, looking straight at me. I think I was mocked by Jann. How fun!
My only negative experiences were with security. I brought flowers, which I'd hoped to give to Jann after the encore was over. But, before the show, a big guy came over to where we were sitting, said he was in charge of security for the show, and gave us his card. He'd seen the flowers, and didn't want me to hand them to her during the show. I tried to find out what the concern was and reason with him, but he was having none of it, and I eventually I had to surrender the flowers. He said he was going to take them straight to Jann's dressing room, and I hope he did, but that's kind of not the point. I wanted to give them to her -- I wanted her to look down and see my face, and connect with me for a moment, and know that I'm one of her fans. I suppose it's kind of silly, immature and selfish, but it's what I wanted.
Once the concert started, after I had been snapping pictures like crazy during the first song, an usher came down and asked me to put away the camera, claiming that they weren't allowed. It didn't say anything about that on the ticket, and I wasn't using flash, but I did put it away, anyway. I'd already taken a couple of really nice pictures, so I'd have something to remember the show by. Obviously I wasn't the only one there with a camera, as I kept seeing flashes go off during the rest of the show. And by the time "Good Mother" came around (it was the last song before the encore), I subtly (I hope) whipped out the camera again for a few last shots.
In all, the concerts were a fantastic experience.