Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bry Webb and The Providers, Doug Tielli @ The Music Gallery, Toronto (February 4, 2012)

  Bry Webb @ The Music Gallery: Photo by Michael Ligon

It's been quite a slow start to the year concert-wise for me but, it was the Bry Webb show[the earlier of the two shows] at The Music Gallery in Toronto just over a week ago that finally broke that dry spell. Subconsciously I think I'd been pondering going to this show for a while as I'd recently been listening to Bry's old band The Constantines and having heard good things about his solo album entitled Provider (the plural of which was the name of his backing band) I snagged a ticket for the early show.

Toronto singer-songwriter Doug Tielli opened the show with a selection of songs backed by his reverb-drenched guitar-playing. Doug's vocals were reminiscent of the melancholiness of Mark Kozelek but also at times approached the breathiness of Antony Hegarty (of Antony and The Johnsons). Still, Mr. Tielli was not without a sense of humour during his brief set and while there may have been an element of humour in his choice of covering the song "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", his performance of the song was also quite sincere and remarkable.

After a brief intermission, it was Bry's turn. Oh I forgot to mention, that when I'd first arrived to the venue, I came just after Doug Tielli had begun his set and as I approached the doors to enter the room, it was Bry himself who opened the door for me, and so as I entered I wished him a good show. And a great show it was. With his backing band augmenting the stripped down instrumental sound with pedal steel, stand up bass, and lap steel and with the grit of Bry's vocals and his strummed guitar playing, it was a sublime set of acoustic folkiness that enveloped the acoustics of the intimate church surroundings. "Asa", the name of his son who inspired it, was represented of the languid, country-tinged folkiness of the evening, putting me quite at ease and comfort on that cold February night. On a side note, Bry bantered between songs that his son couldn't even make it to the early show because even the early show was too close to his bed time. It was only the main set's closer "Ex-Punks" (for which Bry brought on one more person on stage to play drums) which approached anywhere close to the urgency of his previous Constantines' work - if anything it felt a bit of a teaser, for there's no doubt in my mind The Cons will rise again, but in the meantime we have Bry's solo efforts to lavish over. With a little less than half an hour until the second round of music of the night was suppose to start, I didn't think there'd be an encore, but Bry and The Providers did come back to play a cover of the The Mills Brothers' sentimental (and perhaps politically-incorrect nowadays) "Smoke Rings". I swear I heard a chuckle or two when Bry sung the chorus, "Puff, puff, puff, puff your cares away, Puff, puff, puff, puff night and day".

Photos: Bry Webb and The Providers @ The Music Gallery, Toronto (February 4, 2012)