concert review: Dala @ Mississauga Library Square, July 25, 2008
Scarborough natives, Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther, aka Dala (taking the last two letters of each of their first names) brought their breezy acoustic folk pop to Mississauga's Library Square last Friday night. Their MySpace site hints at the duo's talents (most notably their vocal harmonies) though the polished sheen of their most recent album 2007 "Who Do You Think You Are" and 2005's "Angels and Thieves" wasn't necessarily a drawing point that was consistent with my usual indie tastes. But a free show in my hometown and nothing planned that night eventually drew me out to the show. I'd checked out shows at the Square in the past (like past years' Beating Heart concert series) only to be turned off by the all-ages (primarily teen) vibe of the events. Dala, on the other hand, drew a bit more of a varied audience, from seniors, to couples, families and others. A relatively small turnout considering the size of the Square, but thems the breaks when you're relatively unknown. I find it a bit surprising they haven't yet broke into the mainstream when they have several things working for them - talent (most notably vocally), an accessible (somewhat polished) sound, they're attractive, and they have a major label (Universal) behind them having released their last two albums. They've been gaining experience having done (and continuing to do) the folk-festival circuit and having completed opening slots for Tom Cochrane and Matthew Good most recently.
Though their MySpace presents the girls' music as performed with a band, they're apparently more likely to perform live as a duo as they did this time. Playing two set, they performed a mixture of covers (like Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now' and a medley of Buffalo Springfield's 'For What It's Worth' and Rolling Stones' 'You Can't Always Get What You Want') and polished acoustic folk-pop originals. Though there was a safeness, sometimes wide-eyed innocence, to songs they performed like '20 Something' off of "Angels and Thieves" or 'Marilyn Monroe' off of "Who Do You Think You Are" they did also display a knack for introspective, melancholy with tunes like 'Fortress' (which most recently was featured in a scene in the pilot episode of television show "Flashpoint"), 'Hockey Sweater', and 'Sunday Dress'. I could have done without the cover songs for the most part - during their encore, I wasn't particularly feeling their jazzy accappella version of 'Hit The Road Jack' which segued back and forth with '(You Give Me) Fever' which they did an admirable job vocally though I'm not really fan of those songs). However, if one cover song counted it was their version of Neil Young's 'Ohio' (a version of which they contributed to the tribute album "Borrowed Tunes II: A Tribute To Neil Young") which they performed with just electric piano, acoustic guitar and their vocals. Overall, the gals definitely have things working for them, most notably their great vocal harmonies, and as displayed during their live set, charming and humorous banter. With a little musical fine-tuning (a little less polish, more lyrical abstraction) they could definitely be essentials on the music scene.
Photos: Dala @ Mississauga Library Square (July 25, 2008)