It must have been a couple of years ago when Stephen Fearing last toured (as a solo artist) around Southern Ontario, and as much as we tried, none of the dates worked with our own schedules that time. When we saw the announcement of another Ontario tour this Spring (advertised last Fall), and with an open Saturday night on our calendar for his Grimsby show, tickets were quickly purchased to ensure we did not miss out once more. Having discussed his vinyl-only release, “The Secret Of Climbing,” with Stephen recently, we were naturally eager to experience his highly-regarded acoustic show for ourselves.
Station 1 Coffeehouse in Grimsby, ON, is a great place to get together with friends for some food and beverages, which is exactly what we did on this final March Saturday evening before heading upstairs for the show. Having attended a show here last year, we knew what to expect; a great crowd of music lovers, a quality sound-system, and most of all, an intimate evening of tunes from one of the finest singer-songwriters in the business today. And as is typical with this coffeehouse, the show would be split into two sets of music, with the sold-out room treated to a bonus encore performance too.
Welcomed to the stage by the MC, Stephen was eager to address the room, announcing plans to play songs from his recent album(s), as well as some older tracks that have been taken by request over the last few weeks on his social media page. True to his word, the audience would hear songs from as far back as his 2002 “That’s How I Walk” album, along with some Blackie And The Rodeo Kings favorites and a pair of brand new compositions too. Opening the show with “As The Crow Flies” from his 2013 “Between Hurricanes” album, he would return to this popular release when closing both sets; performing “These Golden Days” and “Wheel Of Love” respectively. Needing some minor sound adjustments, Stephen asked for some extra reverb from the engineer in the room. “It’s so dry when you guys come in here, but we call you, in the business, the water bags,” he joked. “You just suck the life out of the room man … but I’m so glad you’re here.” With chuckles and applause, Fearing earned the full attention of the room from the off-set.
As both a gifted and natural story-teller, Fearing would crack jokes all evening, with seemingly no limits to his choice of topics. Tales of his attempts to quickly re-learn older songs by watching You Tube videos, to stories of group writing sessions and bar-room inspirations in Nashville, he was on fine form. And prior to performing “The Things We Did,” the first of several cuts from his 2017 “Every Soul’s A Sailor” album, Fearing would share a story about his current life living out west. “My wife and daughter, and I, moved from Halifax, NS to Victoria, BC in 2015,” he offered. “And yeah, I live amongst the Tilley Militia now on Unicorn Island … as soon as you get off the ferry, if you’re a resident, they check to see if your 30kph governor is in place on the island.” The audience were hooked at this point, laughing along and hanging on every word. “And you know what? It’s just great,” he continued. “When I was a younger man living in Vancouver, you wouldn’t have caught me dead in Victoria … but now, it’s perfect!”
While the jokes kept coming, from his convincing British concert-attendees that proceeds from his album sales were being donated to protecting wild, mutated Jack Russell terriers in Victoria, to the inspiration found by a magazine that featured a certain US political figure on the cover, Fearing’s serious side shared the spotlight too, during each and every track that was performed flawlessly. Whether tugging on the heart-strings with the emotionally charged “The Long Walk To Freedom” and “Red Lights In The Rain,” or going all out with the up-tempo “Blowhard Nation” and “Christine,” the selections on this given night maintained a near-perfect balance. Fearing never eased off with his humor, however; “You know the difference between a singer-songwriter and a medium pizza, is a medium pizza will feed a family of four,” he joked.
After entertaining the room for a solid hour during the first set, Stephen returned to the stage later in the evening for a further 50 minutes of music and stories. Naturally receptive to the promise of plenty of “Blackie” material during this round, the audience took delight in performances of classics such as “Black Sheep” and “Trust Yourself.” Amidst his run of four consecutive Blackie tunes, Fearing would take time to share another tale. “I’ve been playing catch-up with this band [Blackie] from the very beginning,” he commenced. “If you listen to our first recording, ‘High or Hurtin’: The Songs of Willie P. Bennett,’ you know the pre-roll where the recording engineer says ‘Rolling,’ and they hit record … and then people are fussing around playing chords and making sure they are in tune … and after, somebody goes ‘1, 2;’ so if you listen to the pre-roll before somebody yells ‘1, 2, 3,’ you can hear me going, ‘What key is this in?’” The audience were in fits of laughter at this moment, as was I, picturing the on-stage shenanigans encountered at a Blackie show back in 2017. “Like I said, I have been playing catch-up ever since we started,” Fearing re-iterated.
Announcing that Blackie are wrapping up their latest album, Stephen would add “Someone’s Walking On Our Grave,” a new, unreleased composition during the run of Blackie tracks. He would also close the show with a one-track encore, asking once again if we’d like another new Blackie tune, before sharing “Grace (Until The Morning).” He would also perform “One Flat Tire” from his 2006 “Yellowjacket” album, a request taken during the intermission, hence the earlier joke referring to re-learning a song using You Tube. Stephen Fearing shared 18 songs and many amusing stories across his two hour show, leaving us with a fantastic first impression of his solo-acoustic shows, and craving much, much more from him again in the future.
- As The Crow Flies
- The Big East West
- The Things We Did
- Blowhard Nation
- Don’t You Wish Your Bread Was Dough?
- The Long Walk To Freedom
- Red Lights In The Rain
- These Golden Days
- One Flat Tire
- Black Sheep
- Someone’s Walking On Our Grave ***New Track***
- Trust Yourself
- When My Baby Calls My Name
- Love Like Water
- Every Soul’s A Sailor
- Wheel Of Love
- Grace (Until The Morning) ***New Track***