Team GDW were both shocked and thrilled when Kathleen Edwards announced her plans to perform in the USA last month. Shocked because she so seldom comes out to share her wonderful brand of music, and thrilled because of all the places she could have played in the US, she happened to choose a venue within a short driving distance of our home. We were even happier to discover that Ontario native Ken Yates would be opening the show; he’s an artist that we’ve being trying to catch live for several months, but just never seemed to be in the same place at the same time. With tickets secured, we eagerly awaited this opportunity.
Ken Yates received a very warm welcome to the stage, and kicked off the “Canada 150” celebration here in the USA with a six-track set list. Long time followers of this blog may recall that we had the opportunity to interview Ken upon the release of his “Huntsville” album last fall, so we definitely had our own reasons for wanting to experience his music live. Ken certainly did not disappoint with his limited time, endearing himself to the crowd with his laid back charm (and “white hot Canadian anger”) and willingness to converse in between tunes. Launching immediately into the title track from the new album, Ken would play four of the most recent tracks whilst offering up tales of the inspiration behind such songs.
Hailing from London, ON, we loved how he broadcast that ‘his’ city always takes second place in the annual “Best places called London” awards, offering that his home also has a River Thames, a King Street and lots of parks – “always second best, very similar, but shittier,” he joked. We also learned, prior to “Madeline’s Table,” that he actively participates in the ‘House Concert’ scene, where a tale was told of how he encountered “six crazy people in Wisconsin who expected me to sing for my supper.” He certainly had a knack for animating the life and times of a travelling singer-songwriter, and received a well-deserved ovation as his set came to an end.
Ken Yates Set List:
- I Don’t Remember This Town
- Keep Your Head Down
- Roll Me On Home
- Madeline’s Table
- Leave Me The Light On
While we were already excited about the prospect of having Kathleen Edwards in our (almost) backyard, our level of anticipation was boosted just a few weeks prior to the show when Kathleen happened to mention on social media that Colin Cripps would be joining her for this show. Kathleen and Colin sharing a stage – given their history – could this be true? The excitement level would be raised again on the day of the show, learning that the very talented multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Bowskill would also accompany them. Patting ourselves on the back for having tickets, we made sure that we had a front row spot at The Birchmere to enjoy an evening with these three wonderful musicians.
Kathleen Edwards walked on to the stage alone, and commenced her set with a solo piece. Following up with “Change the Sheets,” both Colin and Jimmy would join her about halfway into the song, and remain on stage until Kathleen opted to perform two more solo pieces later in the set. With a 16-track set list, Kathleen would draw upon material from all four of her full length albums, as well as celebrating Canada Day with a two-song “tribute” of popular Joni Mitchell tunes. Attendees at the event thanked Kathleen on numerous occasions in between songs for her long-awaited return, and the artists returned the gratitude with some great music, some great improvisation at times with forgotten lines, and some great ‘on-the-fly’ musicianship, especially from Jimmy who once again demonstrated his impeccable skills with the mandolin and fiddle.
Kathleen and Colin certainly appeared to be ‘good buddies’ on stage, and Colin’s knowledge of the material made for a smooth transition of hitting the right notes and riffs at the right times. Prior to “Chameleon/Comedian,” Kathleen would pick up her guitar adorned with many signatures, informing the crowd that this was a wedding gift for her and Colin. With the natural response from those seated, Colin would state that ‘the guitar’ was getting a second lease of life, while Kathleen would add that the signatures were unfortunately slowly fading away. A not-quite-awkward moment over, all three musicians would go on to knock out the song, before Kathleen would once again endear herself with tales of what Canada Day means to them, and her perspective on the differences between the two nations’ political leaders.
As Colin and Jimmy took a temporary leave of absence at the close of “Come back to me,” Kathleen took the opportunity to debut two new pieces that she was working on. The first was preceded by a tale of how she considers herself pretty knowledgeable about sports (mourning the loss of Ottawa Senators defenceman Marc Methot to the NHL Expansion Draft), while the second number was declared as still being untitled, but about her love of ‘home’ and ‘spring.’ Feeling thirsty, Kathleen also jokingly requested a whisky, and would drop several hints/requests before not one but two glasses materialized next to her stage monitor. In all of her time out of the spotlight, it was wonderful to see that her sense of humor was still alive and kicking – with the audience hanging on every word, joke, and body language during a tale of taking a ‘long drinking vacation’ during the last few years.
Colin and Jimmy returned for the closing four tracks, which included the cover versions of Joni Mitchell’s “Raised on Robbery” and “You turn me on I’m a radio” (the audience promptly assisted during times of missed lines and forgotten verses), and ended with a rousing version of her popular hit “Empty Threat.” Returning for a quick encore (a sold-out Birchmere crowd were craving more), both she and Colin would perform a cover of “Help me make it through,” with Kathleen announcing that Colin should take on the role of Rita Coolidge, as she wanted to be Kris Kristofferson. The night would end on a high as all three artists collaborated on “In State” before bidding the audience farewell.
Kathleen had mentioned earlier in the set that she had been invited to play at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa for the Canada Day celebration. If this quick excursion to Virginia was a last minute rehearsal for her performance, Kathleen easily overcame any obstacles with both her wonderful personality and on-stage demeanor. Thank you Kathleen Edwards for visiting us, for sharing your wonderful music, and for inviting not only Colin and Jimmy to play with you, but for giving Ken Yates an opportunity to open for you. This all-Canadian affair made for an amazing evening, and each and every one of you are welcome back to our neck of the woods anytime.
Kathleen Edwards Set List:
- Sure As Shit
- Change The Sheets
- Six O’Clock News
- Asking For Flowers
- I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory
- Sweet Little Duck
- Back To Me
- Now You Do(?) ***New Track***
- Untitled ***New Track***
- A Soft Place To Land
- Raised On Robbery (Joni Mitchell cover)
- You Turn Me On I’m A Radio (Joni Mitchell cover)
- Empty Threat
- Help Me Make It Through (Kris Kristofferson cover)
- In State