Marshall makes most of main stage jazz fest show
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Amanda Marshall hasn’t released album since 2001. She doesn’t have a Twitter account, a Facebook page or a website. But based on her performance Friday night at the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, the only reasonable explanation for her absence is that she’s been cryogenically frozen for the last 16 years. She looks and sounds exactly the same. Her concert was a 1995 dream come true. And damn, did those songs hold up.
Accompanied by a seven-piece band, the Canadian singer-songwriter started the night with the song Ride. The show drew from her three-album catalogue, including her hugely successful self-titled debut. The night was full of hits like Love Lift Me, Beautiful Goodbye and Sitting On Top of the World. The audience easily sang along to many of them. After all, she did have almost every hit on Canadian radio in 1995 and 1996.
Throughout the night she was expressive, engaged and self-aware, both of her absence and how pervasive many of her songs still are. Before launching into the well-loved tune Fall From Grace, she joked “I know you know this song. You’ve heard it at the office. You’ve heard it at the grocery store.”
One of the show’s most memorable moments came during the second half of the song Beautiful Goodbye, a ballad that built slowly into Marshall’s best vocals of the night.
“I got so excited I sang my earring off,” she said after the song.
Her whole band was solid, but her backup singers deserve a special mention, particularly for their soul-stirring performance of Last Exit to Eden.
Later, Marshall and the two women took a little detour during Trust Me This is Love to incorporate Beyonce’s Run the World and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Though probably well-rehearsed, these sojourns lent a feeling of spontaneity to the show.
When it finally came time for Marshall’s biggest hit, Birmingham, the crowd was abuzz. A serious-looking older man practically gasped as he heard the first few notes. “This is it. This is it,” he said.
By the stunning encore of Let It Rain, everyone in the sold-out crowd seemed in agreement. Because of her relative obscurity for 16 years, Marshall may have seemed like an unexpected choice to headline the main stage. After seeing her perform, it might be the show of the festival.
The evening started off with self-described “opening ceremony band” The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. The Vancouver band is mighty at home on the Bessborough Gardens stage after playing there three times. They may be veterans of the venue, but it was the band’s first time at the festival with its expanded lineup. Typically a duo of harmonica player/singer Shawn Hall and guitarist/drummer Matt Rogers, they were joined by drummer Patty Hamilton and singer Andrina Turenne. Audiences might not let them go back to being a twosome after hearing Turenne’s incredible, powerful vocals.
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer is one of those bands where you don’t need to recognize a single song to have a good time. Their blues-based sound dips its toes in all kinds of genres. They do it in accessible in a way that still comes with a little grit.
Hall might have discovered a new way to get warm in the uncharacteristically cool June weather, inviting people to sink into a figurative “tub of heated-up grease” as transitioned between songs. At 13 degrees, that actually sounded pretty nice.