Our most recent stop in Ontario was for the Matthew and Jill Barber concert in Oakville, as reviewed earlier this week.  The original plan was to head back home the following morning, but just a few weeks ago, we learned that The Wilderness of Manitoba were playing a small string of shows, and they just so happened to be in our vicinity the following night.  Making our hotel reservations for two nights instead of one, we made our way last Friday evening to the Niagara Artists Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

Upon our arrival, we were immediately impressed with this intimate, yet laid-back venue.  With seating arrangements for no more than 30 people, we did not know what to expect in terms of crowd size, but would later find out that most seats were taken once the band started their set.

Opening the festivities was singer-songwriter Jenny Berkel, who warmed things up with an eight-song set list.  Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Jenny filled in the spaces between tracks (guitar tunings) with tales of life on the road, and of being ill-prepared for the un-spring-like Ontario weather and having to run out to buy a sweater.  With a coffee-shop approach, Jenny would use her allotted time to introduce her songs, both new and old (“but they are all new to you”), before making way for the headlining act.

Jenny Berkel Set list:

  1. Lost in the country
  2. Green coat
  3. July fever
  4. Denis
  5. Blues run the game
  6. Edge of a dream
  7. Pale moon
  8. Stockholm

Following a brief intermission, Will Whitwham and Raven Shields would represent The Wilderness of Manitoba for this show, and provide an 11-song set to showcase material from their new release “The Tin Shop.”  The crowd were receptive also to some older material that the duo mixed into the set, most notably their radio hit “Leave Someone.”  By this time, there were approximately twenty people in attendance, with several more making late entrances to the show.  And no matter how small the crowd, the audience participation was positive and applause generous, especially as Will and Raven both played their hearts out with each and every track.

The new material included cuts such as “Brigden Fair” and “Nothing’s ever said,” while older favorites such as “The Escape” and “November” (which for me, stood out above all) were dusted off and performed flawlessly too.  Raven would close the set with a great cover version of the Katherine Edwards tune “Mercury,” and the duo would leave the stage to a standing ovation.  This crowd was not ready to depart yet, and politely demanded an encore, to which Raven returned stating that they had not prepared any more material for the show.  In true “the show must go on” spirits, however, both Will and Raven quickly appeased their audience by offering up individual solo encores, much to the delight of the crowd.  Will offered up a First Floor Power cover, while Raven performed one of her solo tracks called “Wagon” to ultimately close the show.

The new material proved entertaining, and we certainly endorse taking the time to see The Wilderness of Manitoba for yourselves; trust us, you will not be disappointed.  We are certainly glad that the opportunity presented itself to us at the last minute, and as is our norm, wish to express our gratitude to both Will and Raven for taking time to chat with us after the show.  A big thanks also to Will – we look forward to listening to The Tin Shop EP in its entirety later this week.

Wilderness of Manitoba Set list:

  1. Wild wind (New)
  2. Brigden Fair (New)
  3. Nothing ever said (New)
  4. Across the dark
  5. Easier (New)
  6. The escape
  7. Leave someone
  8. November
  9. Mercury

Encore

  1. Goddamn your fingers (Will)
  2. Wagon (Raven)

~ M

Visit The Wilderness of Manitoba’s website.

Buy “The Tin Shop” on Bandcamp.